April 21, 2012 - Hazardous material response teams from Oakland and Livingston counties along with the Oakland County Incident Management team assembled at the Troy Police and Fire Training Center at 9:00 a.m. today to respond to a simulated train derailment and release of chlorine gas in downtown Holly, and to demonstrate emergency response readiness in time of disaster. Today's exercise through the Michigan Fire Service Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) was the largest such demonstration of intra-regional cooperation among fire service and emergency response task forces ever held in the state.
"MABAS provides local fire chiefs with simple and immediate access to additional fire, emergency, and specialized services and resources because no single fire department or community can cope with all disasters and emergencies," said State Fire Marshal Richard W. Miller. "This higher level of coordination and preparedness will have a big impact by significantly reducing the loss of life and severity of injuries to people. Municipalities can also more effectively work together to leverage critical fire service assets and reduce duplication of effort and resources particularly in lean financial times."
MABAS is a user-driven system designed to streamline the requesting and providing of emergency and fire services resources across Michigan and the Great Lakes Region for events such as major fires, train derailments, tornadoes, hazardous materials incidents, wild fires, domestic or foreign terrorism and other events that may overwhelm a local fire department.
The exercise occurred in three areas at the Troy Police and Fire Training Center: a "command post," a "hot zone," where tactical operations were executed; and a "hands-on" staging area of Hazmat team vehicle(s) and equipment. Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Canadian Railroad also participated. Attendees witnessed real-time initial response, incident command, mitigation, no-notice evacuation and/or shelter-in-place, as well as other emergency response actions. The event demonstrated the stresses and challenges on the system for notification, activation, assembly, deployment of resources, staging, incident command and management, as well as communication protocols.
"This is the first time the fire service exercised a simulated intra-regional response of this size," stated Fire Chief Bill Nelson of Troy and MABAS president. "We wanted to show that the fire service and its emergency management partners in Michigan are continually training to prepare to respond to a major disaster or an event within the state that requires considerable emergency resources."
Michigan joins several Midwest states that have implemented the MABAS program. Currently, there are nine MABAS divisions in Michigan covering the state's Emergency Management Regions: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7. Within these regions there are 130 member fire departments, an Urban Search and Rescue Task Force, three Hazardous Material Response Teams and Incident Management Team. Several more divisions are pending approval and activation. All participating MABAS-MI divisions had a designated dispatch center participating in today's exercise.
"Michigan's fire service is working diligently to ensure we are ready in Michigan through its MABAS program," said Miller. "I strongly encourage all fire departments across the state to consider joining MABAS."
Today's exercise was funded through the 2009 Homeland Security Grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The grant is administered by the Michigan State Fire Marshal and the Bureau of Fire Services located in the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), a sponsor of the exercise. Other sponsors were the Michigan State Police Emergency Management Homeland Security Division, and Michigan Association of Fire Chiefs.
For agencies interested in joining MABAS-MI, visit www.michiefs.org. For more information about LARA, please visit www.michigan.gov/lara. Follow us on Twitter www.twitter.com/michiganLARA, "Like" us on Facebook or find us on YouTube www.youtube.com/michiganLARA.
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