Beverly Hills plans automatic aid agreement with Berkley, Huntington Woods

By: Brendan Losinski | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published September 11, 2017

BEVERLY HILLS — The village of Beverly Hills is switching to an automatic aid agreement for emergency services pending the approval of the two participating communities: Berkley and Huntington Woods.

Beverly Hills already had a mutual aid agreement with both municipalities, meaning that each community could request help from the others. An automatic aid agreement would further pool resources and have the other two communities respond automatically during emergencies.

“The difference between (an) automatic aid agreement and mutual aid is that automatic aid agreements get other departments to respond without us even requesting it,” explained Lt. Howard Shock, of the Beverly Hills Department of Public Safety. “With mutual aid, one of our supervisors would need to make a call to the other departments. Sometimes that can take time, and the other department is waiting to get that call before they go into action. With automatic aid, they are immediately called and they immediately respond. … You get a quicker response and you get a better response, because you get more people coming.”

Beverly Hills Village Administrator Chris Wilson said the change is a natural progression of the existing cooperation between the communities and it should prove beneficial to everyone.

“There was conversation between the public safety departments (in each of the three municipalities), and Berkley and Huntington Woods had just gone through the Insurance Services Office process,” said Wilson. “In that discussion, they decided to expand the mutual aid agreement to the automatic aid agreement. Berkley and Huntington Woods both still have to approve it, though. We’ve always had a mutual aid agreement. Functionally, this shouldn’t be very different. Huntington (Woods) and Berkley, having just gone through this ISO process, let us know how beneficial this could be, which is why we decided to start this process now.”

Currently, the Beverly Hills Department of Public Safety is budgeted for 26 public safety officers — although a few of the positions are currently empty and are in the process of being filled — and the department responds to approximately 6,000 calls a year.

The Huntington Woods Department of Public Safety has 17 public safety officers and responds to about 3,000 calls per year, and the Berkley Department of Public Safety has 27 public safety officers and responds to about 10,000 calls per year.

In addition to increased community safety, the change could bring down insurance premiums for Beverly Hills residents.

“Every three years, municipalities have a review by the Insurance Services Office, and they give us credits based on the amount of personnel we have, our equipment, our water system and other factors,” explained Shock. “With an automatic aid agreement, you have all the other communities counted toward these credits because you have those other departments coming. ... The Insurance Services Office will downgrade you if it takes more time to contact the other departments in a mutual aid agreement situation. Those extra steps are eliminated. With a better rating for the local first responders, this could potentially cause lower insurance rates for residents.”

For the insurance companies to recognize automatic aid, it must be prearranged for first-alarm response according to a specific plan, the aid must be dispatched to reported structure fires on the initial alarm, the aid must be provided 24 hours a day and 360 days a year, and the aid must offset a need in the community — for instance, if the community lacks a certain piece of equipment.

The automatic aid agreement will mean additional emergency resources in Beverly Hills — the ISO takes that into account and determines the community to be safer, and thus makes lower insurance premiums more likely.

“In addition to more comprehensive emergency service for the community ... the hope is (that) as a factor in the ISO review process, they will give us a better rating. With a better rating, that would hopefully cause home insurance premiums for residents to go down,” Shock said.

There should be no decrease in service for Beverly Hills residents, and steps are taken to ensure that the village is still patrolled and safe even if police and fire crews are responding to an emergency in one of the other cities.

“We’ve been operating under the mutual aid system for a while, so we have already been responding to other departments’ requests for help,” said Shock. “We always balance how many people and equipment are sent out to a situation versus how many we still have available at the same time.”

Berkley and Huntington Woods have already been in an automatic aid agreement for some time.

“Traditionally, when one of our mutual aid members called, we’ve gone,” said Matt Baumgarten, Berkley city manager. “This agreement doesn’t detract from anyone’s abilities to govern or help their own community, and it’s been a great agreement for us so far.”