Thursday, January 19, 2017

Mutual Aid: Department supports local communities with fire, ambulance services whenever called

Mutual Aid: Department supports local communities  with fire, ambulance services whenever called
Firefighter/Emergency Medical Technician-Intermediate Hunter Young with the Directorate of Emergency Services Fire Department conducts maintenance tests on a fire truck during operations at the fire department Dec. 19, 2016 at Fort McCoy, Wis. (U.S. Army Photo by Scott T. Sturkol, Public Affairs Office, Fort McCoy)
Story by Scott Sturkol
Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office

In mid-November, Fort McCoy emergency-response personnel with the Directorate of Emergency Services, or DES, Fire Department responded to a two-car collision near Sparta, Wis.

The DES crew that was among several agencies that responded to help provide immediate medical attention to the two drivers in the accident. Such responses outside of Fort McCoy’s borders are possible because of mutual aid and automatic aid agreements the department has with emergency-response agencies in Monroe and La Crosse counties as well as through the Wisconsin Mutual Aid Box-Alarm System, or MABAS.

In 2015, Fort McCoy Fire Department personnel responded to 12 mutual aid or automatic aid requests in local communities, said Fort McCoy Fire Chief David Biondi. In 2016, the department responded to 46 mutual aid/automatic aid requests.

“These responses have involved … structural fires, underwater rescue, auto accidents, and ambulance calls,” Biondi said.

Mutual aid agreements are signed documents that define how and when assistance might be provided between partner agencies, said Assistant Fire Chief Brady Brever with the DES Fire Department. “(Those partners) will then send crews out to help (Fort McCoy) if we ask, and we can respond to help those agencies as well.”

Most of the fire department’s mutual-aid support involves working with Tomah and Sparta fire districts and ambulance services. Jody Allen, ambulance director for Tomah, said the partnership the mutual aid agreement they have with Fort McCoy has worked out great.

“It’s appreciated,” Allen said. “We’re all in it for the same reasons — to help people.”

Brever said Fort McCoy also has an automatic aid agreement with the Oakdale Fire Department. “These agreements are specific,” he said. “If they have a structure fire (for example), we send a fire engine with four firefighters and a command vehicle with an assistant fire chief. And, if we have a structure fire, they send an engine with four firefighters.”

The department’s involvement in MABAS includes more widespread support. Every participating entity has signed the same contract as 750-plus other MABAS agencies, according to the MABAS Wisconsin website, Participating agencies agree to standards of operation, incident command, minimum, level of equipment staffing, safety, and on-scene terminology.

“We belong to Division 145 and 134 — Monroe and La Crosse counties — in MABAS,” Biondi said. “We also can support MABAS in some areas of Juneau County.”

MABAS agencies are able to work together seamlessly on any emergency scene. All MABAS agencies operate on a common radio frequency and are activated for response through pre-designed “box” cards that each participating agency designs and tailors to meet their local risk needs.

The box cards list specific resources and personnel the department will use to support other fire/emergency response agencies in their MABAS districts.

“An example would be sending a water tanker and crew to support a fire response in La Crosse Country for a specific fire agency,” Brever said. “There’s numerous box cards that are used for each district.”

MABAS also provides mutual aid station coverage to a stricken community when its resources are committed to an incident for an extended period.

Biondi said mutual aid agreements are common throughout the United States and are crucial in providing the support needed in fire and ambulance emergencies.

“It’s not unusual on a large structure fire that you might need 40 or 50 (firefighters),” Biondi said. “To find those numbers, you need to rely on either MABAS or a mutual aid program.”

Brever said the Mutual Aid agreements also help Fort McCoy’s personnel better know the people of other departments.

“I think our (people) have appreciated the mutual aid agreements because this allows them to get out into different communities and do their jobs as well as train,” Brever said.

Building training cooperation and camaraderie with other agencies does help each firefighter and emergency medical technician significantly, Brever said. “More importantly, the cooperation helps us to save lives, help people, and protect property,” he said.

For more information about the DES Fire Department, call 608-388-2508.

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