Date of Award

May 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Civil Engineering

Committee Member

Jennifer Ogle

Committee Member

Mashrur Chowdhury

Committee Member

Ronald Chrestman

Committee Member

Eric Morris


Mutual aid agreements are the cornerstone to fast and efficient delivery of aid in emergency situations. Emergency response industries, such as firefighters and police, as well as some transportation modes, such air and rail, rely on these agreements to prepare and plan for disasters. Bus-centric transportation agencies are well positioned and willing to respond to aid requests although these agencies lack formal, written agreements for how aid will be provided. An exploratory survey to all federally funded transit agencies operating bus service revealed that 70.2% of agencies do not have local, written mutual aid agreements (N=683, s=131). While some state-level agreements exist and may result in all of an agency’s resources being used in a large-scale emergency response, these agreements do not exist at the local level.

Through an analysis of Intrastate Mutual Aid Agreements from across the United States, elements needed to establish local, bilateral mutual aid agreements were extracted, synthesized, and organized into an online form-based platform. This tool is referenced as ForMAAT – Form-based Mutual Aid Agreement Tool. It is designed to assist bus-centric transportation agencies in the creation of mutual aid agreements. Although many components of the mutual aid agreement are transferable across industries, the request, acknowledgement, and rendition of aid are tailored for use by bus agencies.

Participatory Action Research was employed to refine ForMAAT to meet practitioners’ needs and validate its utility for bus transportation agencies. Through a series of five focus groups – expert review, organization focus group, legal review, two transit practitioners focus groups, and functional requirement testing, ForMAAT’s clarity, organization and user satisfaction was improved.

During multiple levels of the review process, participants were asked to rate the importance of each question as to whether it was essential for an immediate use mutual aid agreement (developed during a current emergency) or if it was better suited for planning purposes. Content validity ratios were applied to these ratings to isolate those questions needed to construct an immediate use mutual aid agreement. All questions are included during a planning exercise, when time is not an issue.

Ultimately, every participant who interacted with ForMAAT gave it a positive utility score. Participants agreed that the lack of resources and emergency management experience within the agency precludes many of them from developing these plans on their own. There was a collective desire to see this product further refined beyond a beta version to implementation to fill this gap. The iterative process of participatory action research proved effective in refining ForMAAT into a desired product which meets the needs of bus-centric transportation agencies desiring to establish local mutual aid agreements.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.