The Mutual Aid Box Alarm System's (MABAS) board members last week hosted fire chiefs from Oregon at the Northeastern Illinois Public Safety Training Academy facility in Glenview, Ill. The meeting was held to educate the West Coast chiefs about how MABAS developed an intricate local, state and regional mutual-aid system throughout the Midwest, said MABAS President Jay Reardon.
"We met at their request to discuss MABAS and the systems application in their region of our nation," Reardon said.
Established in the mid-60s, MABAS is an intergovernmental agency that organizes mutual-aid responses and distributes equipment to 1,200 participating agencies throughout Illinois, as well as interstate cooperation with Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri and Iowa. Through federal grant dollars, the agency provides equipment and training to participating agencies, Reardon said. The agency manages more than $30 million in grant dollars from federal and state budgets. Funding is used to purchase apparatus and other equipment for fire stations throughout the state, as well as for firefighter training that includes hazmat and large-scale incident training, he said.
Oregon chiefs meet with MABAS to learn how to develop a similar mutual aid system in their state. Reardon provided an in-depth perspective on how MABAS operates and tips on how the chiefs could work with local officials to adopt the system throughout their state. For example, he noted that it is important the state maintain interoperable systems and develop pre-designate operational plans — including listing of all the state's apparatus and communications assets.
"It's crucial to organizing a response," Reardon said.
Reardon noted that other agencies throughout the United States that are interested in statewide mutual aid should look at MABAS' best practices.
"We've learned a lot over the years," Reardon said. "And we have a list of best practices we can provide to other states interested in a state- or region-wide mutual-aid systems."