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New IAFC Publication Captures the MABAS Success Story

National Mutual-Aid Model Shares History, Lessons Learned and Formula for Continued Success

The IAFC has produced a new publication featuring Illinois’ Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) to serve as a guide for fire departments and states. Together We Can – The Mutual Aid Box Alarm System of Illinois captures for the first time the complete story of MABAS-Illinois development and an overview of this remarkable mutual-aid system—what it is, why it works and what it can do for a fire department and state.

Together We Can was supported by a grant from the Department of Homeland Security through the National Integration Center, which has assisted with the state and national mutual-aid programs, managed by the IAFC.

The book starts with the vision of Don Kuhn, a Chicago Fire Department lieutenant who believed that Chicago’s box-alarm system for mutual aid could be replicated in the suburbs. It traces MABAS’s development into a statewide system and describes the changes propelled by major disasters, including 9/11 and the Utica tornadoes of 2004.

It culminates with the 2010 validation exercise—the largest-ever multistate deployment of resources to validate a state’s mutual-aid system—and how MABAS continues to prepare for whatever the future may hold.

Subtitled “Best Practices for Developing a Mutual Aid System for Fire, EMS and Specialized Incident Operational Teams,” the book goes into depth about how and why MABAS works day-to-day, detailing operational capabilities and illustrating the processes and equipment that have become a MABAS-Illinois hallmark.

The MABAS mystique is uncovered through sections on key elements that have led MABAS-Illinois to become a model for mutual aid:

  • cooperation, collaboration and inclusive decision-making
  • developing standard agreements
  • routine use of the system
  • effectively allocating resources

The book also takes a look at new mutual-aid horizons, including the Mid-America Mutual Aid Consortium and collaborative work with the Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center Partnership.

Ann Davison, CAE, is the strategic information manager for the IAFC.

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