Were They Prepared?

In a departure from our normal Close Calls format, we want to provide some thoughts on the Hurricane Katrina situation from a fire standpoint, as it in many respects relates directly to what we do cover here each month. This is being written on...


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Among the most successful larger, non-big-government fire mutual aid systems in the nation is the Illinois area,s MABAS, which stands for Mutual Aid Box Alarm System. I have followed MABAS for years and am a big fan of what it can do and has done. MABAS is a mutual aid organization that has been in existence since the late 1960s. Heavily rooted throughout Illinois, MABAS includes over 900 member fire departments organized within 57 divisions. The divisions geographically span an area from Lake Michigan to west of Rockford and south through Champaign-Urbana, Douglas County, St. Clair County and St. Louis, MO. Seven Wisconsin divisions and one Indiana division also share MABAS with their Illinois counterparts. How about that. It works beyond state lines and is local, not federal, and is made up of volunteer fire departments and career fire departments working hand in hand.

And how about this: MABAS includes over 35,000 firefighters and emergency responders with units including more than 1,200 fire stations, 1,400 engine companies, 700 ladder trucks, 875 ambulances (mostly paramedic capable), 350 heavy rescue squads (with 23 of them being technical rescue teams, with 16 in development), 125 light rescue squads and 600 water tankers. Fire-EMS reserve (backup) units account for more than 600 additional emergency vehicles. MABAS also has 34 Level A response-ready hazmat teams and eight more in development.

I think there is a lot to be learned from MABAS and the other coordinated, organized "by firefighters for firefighters" mutual aid systems, if only from a firefighter safety, survival and "close call" risk-management standpoint.

A national fire mutual aid system? Join Firehouse Contributing Editor William Goldfeder; Chief Bill Killen, president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), Chief Jay Reardon, president of the MABAS; and IAFC Executive Director Garry Briese in their candid discussion on Firehouse Radio's "Through The Smoke" presentation at www.firehouse.com/mutualaid.


William Goldfeder, EFO, a Firehouse contributing editor, is a 32-year veteran of the fire service. He is a deputy chief with the Loveland-Symmes Fire Department in Ohio, an ISO Class 2 and CAAS-accredited department. Goldfeder has been a chief officer since 1982, has served on numerous IAFC and NFPA committees, and is a past commissioner with the Commission on Fire Accreditation International. He is a graduate of the Executive Fire Officer Program at the National Fire Academy and is an active writer, speaker and instructor on fire service operational issues. Goldfeder and Gordon Graham host the free and noncommercial firefighter safety and survival website www.FirefighterCloseCalls.com. Goldfeder may be contacted at BillyG@FirefighterCloseCalls.com.