OFM - 04-04-12

Automatic Aid

Public Fire Safety Guidelines

Subject Coding

PFSG 04-04-12


Emergency Response


January 1998


Automatic Aid


Under Review


To describe the concept of automatic aid as one option for delivering specific fire suppression and rescue services.


  • Automatic aid is generally considered in other jurisdictions as a program designed to provide and/or receive assistance from the closest available resource, irrespective of municipal boundaries, on a day-to-day basis.
  • The concept has been practiced for many years in Ontario through what has been known as first response agreements.


  • The obvious advantage of implementing an automatic aid program is the person experiencing the emergency receives fire services from the closest available provider by supplying seamless service through the elimination of artificial service boundaries.
  • The implementation of an automatic aid program can enhance the level of public safety.
  • The concept of dispatching the closest available assistance could reduce the critical element of time between the commencement of a fire and the application of an extinguishing agent to the fire.
  • Life, property and environmental losses would subsequently be reduced.
  • Public and fire-fighter safety would improve.


  • The potential area for automatic aid is defined where two or more fire departments could work together to assemble an adequate fire attack team in a more timely manner than possible under existing arrangements.
  • The persons living or working in the defined potential areas would all stand to receive an improved level of service should an automatic aid program be implemented.


  • Response times can be reduced by dispatching the closest available apparatus and personnel.
  • Automatic aid is intricately connected to the communications and dispatch systems as well as the type of training delivered to the fire-fighters.


The simplest way to implement an automatic aid program would be to incorporate the concept into updated versions of existing mutual aid plans, thus replacing the need for many of the otherwise required agreements between all participating municipalities.


  • Automatic aid, unlike mutual aid, is not intended to be provided at no charge to the municipality receiving the assistance.
  • A request for day-to-day assistance, as opposed to a request for help at a major fire or emergency, should be provided on a cost recovery basis.

Codes, Standards and Best Practices:

Codes, Standards and Best Practices resources available to assist in establishing local policy on this assessment are listed below. All are available at http://www.mcscs.jus.gov.on.ca. Please feel free to copy and distribute this document. We ask that the document not be altered in any way, that the Office of the Fire Marshal be credited and that the documents be used for non-commercial purposes only.
See also PFSG
04-05-12 Mutual Aid
04-09-12 Fire Protection Agreements
04-64-12 Communications/Resource Centre