Spotlight Date: 
June, 2004

Executive Director’s Memo
June 25, 2004

Mutual Aid and Emergency and Disaster Assistance Agreement Act of 2004

The Mutual Aid and Emergency and Disaster Assistance Agreement of 2004 (2004 Public Chapter 743) is a complete overhaul and vast improvement in the laws regarding mutual aid and other emergency assistance in Tennessee. In recent years, changes at the federal and state level had created some confusion regarding the law on providing assistance between local governments. Under previous laws governing mutual aid, a written agreement must have been signed and in effect prior to the occurrence of the emergency in order for local governments to be eligible for reimbursement from FEMA for costs related to providing mutual aid.

This act actually puts in place a basic state-wide mutual aid agreement for all Tennessee local governments effective July 1, 2004. Your county and/or independent volunteer fire department do not need to take any action if you want to be part of this statewide mutual aid agreement. If however, your local government wants the existing mutual aid agreements you have in effect to continue or wants to create a new specific mutual aid agreement, it must pass a resolution authorizing the continuation or, in the case of a new agreement, must draft a contract and have it signed by all parties. If you do not pass such a resolution, all of your existing mutual aid agreements will discontinue and be replaced with the basic mutual aid agreement contained in the Mutual Aid and Emergency and Disaster Assistance Agreement Act of 2004 (hereafter called the Act).

This new law now provides that you can have a mutual aid relationship with every governmental entity in the State of Tennessee without the need of cumbersome and complicated contractual agreements. It does not require anyone to provide mutual aid, but if you choose to provide assistance in someone else’s emergency or request assistance for your own local emergency, there will now be statutes in place to govern reimbursement, liability and management issues related to the disaster. Keep in mind however, that because this is a Tennessee law, it does not have any effect on out-of-state agreements and you must continue to have other written, signed agreements with any out-of-state entities.

The act defines “governmental entity” as follows:
"Governmental entity" means any political subdivision of the state, including, but not limited to, any incorporated city or town, metropolitan government, county, utility district, school district, nonprofit volunteer fire department receiving public funds and recognized under Title 68, Chapter 102, Part 3, rescue squad, human resource agency, public building authority, airport authority, and development district, or any instrumentality of government created by one (1) or more of these named governmental entities or the general assembly, or any entity otherwise recognized by state law as a local governmental entity;