County fire drill tests mutual aid
Agencies work with box alarm system
By Holly Neumann
County emergency personnel conducted a Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) drill on the Iola Old Car Show Grounds on June 13.
“This type of drill is important for all departments,” said Tom Cullen, who is president of MABAS Division 142.
“Let’s face it, local departments are getting smaller, so working with other departments for big incidents becomes crucial. MABAS puts everyone together on one system so everyone is doing everything the same way.”
MABAS Wisconsin is an organization that promotes the development and implementation of the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System in communities throughout the state.
“The idea is to have a lot of resources available to every community,” Waupaca County Emergency Management Director Andy Carlin said. “Everyone brings a little bit, so no community is ever left without any resources.”
As the drill got underway, a page went out from dispatch to send the Iola Fire Department to the Car Show grounds for a building explosion.
“It is interesting for us to understand what is going on and seeing all the departments working together,” said Jody Schultz that works in dispatch. “We usually don’t get to see what is going on. I am learning a lot here.”
“This is a new, but good system for us,” added Carlin. “It is great that we have so many departments here. There is a lot of learning going on today.”
In total 16 departments from Waupaca, Waushara and Outagamie Counties participated in the drill.
“Training is the most important thing that a department does,” said Robert Ehrenberg from the Weyauwega Fire Department. “We don’t have many big events like these, but in order for us to be properly prepared we need training like this.”
Ehrenberg went on to say having nice equipment is one thing, but knowing how to use it all is very important.
As the drill continued, ladder trucks arrived on the scene and portable water holding tanks were set up.
One important part of any emergency is the rehab area set up by Emergency Medical Services.
“This allows us to practice our skills on rehabbing our fire fighters,” said Lynn Schober, who has been an EMT for 15 years. “This is the largest drill I have participated in and it gives us an opportunity to work with other departments.”
According to Deb Barton, during an incident rehab vitals are taken on all firefighters on a regular basis.
“We have a long list of guidelines that we follow,” Barton said. “And the firefighters have to be cleared in order to go back in to the incident.”
“We have it down pretty good,” added Schober. “We have not had any firefighters go down.”
The drill focused on radio communications and accountability.
“Communication plays a huge role at the scene of an emergency,” said Cullen. “We also have accountability boards which makes sure that everyone that went in, comes back out again. It is a way to keep everyone safe.”
The hope is that when a large incident such as the downtown fire in Iola or the derailment of the train in Weyauwega, MABAS will make those situations more easily managed.
“Another very important advantage of MABAS is that each fire department has nine different types of emergency calls all pre-scripted by the type of call and by the call location,” Cullen said. “This allows the incident commander to not have to think about where he will get the added resources from because they are all pre-determined and all agreed upon by all agencies involved.”
Cullen gave the example of the Weyauwega Box Card 1-1.
“When there is a call in the city limits of Weyauwega the equipment and personnel on the ‘Still’ alarm are dispatched,” he said. “If we get to the scene and it is larger than the responding personnel can handle, all that the commanding officer needs to do is request a ‘Working Still,’ then the next line of equipment is dispatched by the communications center, and so on.”
He noted that as it becomes more difficult for fire departments in rural areas to recruit volunteers this system makes it easier to handle large incidents.
MABAS Wisconsin organized in August 2004.
The Mutual Aid Box Alarm System Senate Bill 642 was approved by the Wisconsin Legislature and signed by Governor Jim Doyle on April 5, 2006.