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Cities will now respond to one another's 911 calls

After several years of an automatic aid agreement with Coral Springs, Margate officials have approved a similar agreement with North Lauderdale.

Under the agreement, approved at the July 8 commission meeting, if a Margate emergency response vehicle is closer to an emergency in North Lauderdale, that Margate unit would respond to the call.

The same would apply if a North Lauderdale unit was closer to an emergency situation in Margate. Neither city would be responsible for monetary compensation.

"The closest available apparatus would respond to a request for assistance regardless of where the location is," said City Manager Douglas Smith.

The automatic response includes fire, EMS, technical rescue, vehicle extrication, dive operations, first response hazmat and fire investigations. Each city can terminate the agreement with 90-days notice.

Some residents questioned whether the agreement is a prelude to a merger.

"Is this a potential 'get to know you' period before a merger?" asked resident Anthony Caggiano.

"Everyone says that's not where it's going to come to ... It's something that starts out innocently, but that's where it winds up going," said resident Rich Popovic.

But officials denied intentions for a merger, citing the agreement with Coral Springs, which hasn't resulted in a combination of services. According to a 2000 Sun Sentinel article, automatic aid goes back at least 15 years between North Lauderdale and Tamarac.

"It's been very beneficial for both [Margate and Coral Springs] communities ... It's not a merger in any way, shape or form," said Margate's acting fire chief, Rick Donahue. "I can get a rescue truck or fire engine in less time [with this agreement]."

Commissioner Frank Talerico said it is nothing more than an attempt to get speedier services.

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