FLINT TWP. — With the township board’s approval of a resolution to participate in the Genesee County Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) Division, the township fire department is joining an interstate emergency response readiness network.
MABAS-MI is designed to coordinate emergency and fire resources across the Great Lakes Region for events such as major fires, train derailments, tornadoes, hazardous materials incidents, wild fires, and domestic or foreign terrorism that may overwhelm a local fire department, according to information on the state MABAS web site at www.mabasmi.org.
Michigan is joining several Midwest states that have implemented MABAS. Genesee County is one of seven MABAS divisions in Michigan with approval and activation pending for several more divisions.
MABAS started in Illinois as a system for mass, multijurisdictional deployment in emergency situations and was first established in Oakland County before efforts began to spread it statewide, said Flint Township Fire Chief John Ringwelski, to provide background to the township board.
“What we are doing in this county and in the state of Michigan is rewriting the mutual-aid compacts,” he said.
Mutual aid agreements between departments to assist each other when needed were written many years ago and may no longer stand up in court, according to some attorneys, Ringwelski said.
The MABAS process has been reviewed and approved by local attorneys and the Michigan Attorney General, he said.
Under MABAS, the township fire department could be called for assistance at a large incident as far away as the upper peninsula or out of state for that matter, Ringwelski said.
MABAS creates divisions and coordinates deployment based on resources.
“It is an organized deployment,” Ringwelski said. “Instead of someone calling Genesee County saying give us 20 fire departments, it is prescribed with box alarm cards.”
Those cards contain information and a grid that establishes who goes where with what equipment when mutual aid is requested.
Ringwelski added that the department is not obligated to go, for example during holiday periods when manpower is low, and will not send more than 20 percent of its staffing.
He also said there is no upfront cost to the township and remuneration will be handled the same as it is now with set wages for trucks and personnel on local calls. Some larger incident might require the supervisor to apply for reimbursement through federal emergency funding sources, he said.
Each division is the basic building block of MABAS-MI, according to its web site. A division may consist of fire departments in a portion of a county, the entire county, or several counties. All are organized into a mutual aid group and an executive board is formed.
Under the Interlocal agreement, Flint Township will appoint one member to that executive board.
The MABAS-MI interlocal agreement must be a approved by a resolution from the governing body of all participating departments. It sets the legal parameters for intrastate and interstate mutual aid, including liability, worker’s compensation and indemnification language, according to mabasmi.org.