A handful of rural fire departments in Menominee County are taking advantage of a unique mutual aid system that will help the departments improve their resources in protecting people and property when fire erupts.

Called the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS), the system is a user-driven system crafted to streamline the requesting and providing of department resources across the state of Michigan during large-scale activities. The large-scale outbreaks are identified as major fires, train derailments and acts of terrorism.

MABAS has been around for a long time (1968) when it was initially established in the state of Illinois. The system has since expanded to Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana, and to parts of Missouri and Iowa. It has been in the developing stages in Menominee County since 2013.

Josh Dessert, president of the Menominee County Fire Fighters Association, noted the program is now beginning to expand its services. He said Michigan MABAS accepted Menominee County into the program in January of this year.

MABAS allows departments to call for instructions from other departments that are enrolled in the program. The fire chiefs discuss the various potential emergencies that they may encounter and what type of resources they will need from other departments. The chiefs further review what resources they can provide in the emergencies and the type of circumstances they will be able to provide the resources.

“The importance of MABAS in Menominee County is that it will help with the overall mutual response with each other,” Dessart explained. “MABAS is pre-determined and pre-planned, the chiefs sit down together and create these MABAS cards, a sheet of paper that determines what the level of response will be ahead of time,” he added.

A fire department will inform dispatch of the emergency and level of response needed, and dispatch will have the information needed to call other departments within MABAS. There are nine different types of cards. Some categories of cards include whether the region calling for aid is hydrated or not, if the emergency is a structure fire, if EMS or HAZMAT are needed as well as other types of needs, according to Dessart.

There are many other features offered by the widespread MABAS program. Menominee County is the first MABAS division in the 15-county Upper Peninsula. Marinette County is also affiliated with the program. It is unlikely Menominee County will receive assistance from the Michigan division, but Menominee and Marinette counties can work together when seeking aid.

Four Menominee County fire departments are enrolled in MABAS. They include Cedarville, Mellen, Nadeau and Spalding townships. Four other township departments will be linked to the program beginning Jan. 1 — Daggett, Faithorn, Harris and Stephenson (city).

Given the various uncertain emergencies that exist in today’s world, it’s encouraging to see rural fire departments band together in an organized effort to provide the protection and aid our citizens have come to expect. We applaud their efforts and wish them well as a part of the “first responders” network.