Fort McCoy supports surrounding communities through Mutual Aid agreements
July 21, 2011
FORT McCOY, Wis. -- In times of emergency or distress, neighbors often help neighbors.
Fort McCoy’s Directorate of Emergency Services Fire Department has agreements with surrounding communities and provides and receives assistance, as needed, said David Biondi, Fort McCoy fire chief.
Mutual Aid agreements are signed documents between two agencies that define how and when assistance would be provided, such as in the case of a natural or man-made disaster, Biondi said. The installation has agreements with the Monroe County Emergency Services Association and the city of La Crosse Fire Department.
“Typically, an agency will respond to an incident and assess at the scene if they can handle the response or need additional assistance,” he said. “It could be additional manpower or supplies, or a piece of equipment that could help bring the incident under control.”
If an agency faces a structure or wild-land fire, for example, it may need additional breathing-air apparatus. Biondi said a request for assistance also may entail providing extra fire engines or firefighting equipment or having ambulances ready to assist with evacuating casualties. The Fire Department also can provide quartz lighting to assist with nighttime operations and securing an area, he said.
Fort McCoy received Mutual Aid assistance in the past year in the areas of firefighting support for brush-grass and structure fires and emergency services support in traffic accidents.
In the past year, Fort McCoy received assistance 10 times under the Mutual Aid agreements while installation assets were used for assistance in 17 incidents, according to Fort McCoy statistics. The program is an excellent example of Fort McCoy and the surrounding communities providing support and assistance to each other in accordance with the intention of the Army Community Covenant, he said.
Two recent incidents highlight the scope of mutual aid assistance requests from neighboring communities.
In May, the department was called upon to support the city of La Crosse as it handled clean-up operations after a tornado went through the city, he said. The department provided equipment that had spotlights on it to support clean-up operations.
Then, in June, the department received a call to support the city of Tomah in the investigation of a suspicious vehicle parked in the city’s downtown area.
Assistant Fire Chief Ted Richmond said the department provided a remote-controlled robot to assist with the investigation.
“The robot can replace Soldiers or other explosive-ordnance/bomb-squad personnel from being placed in harm’s way,” he said. “The robot also has a hazardous-material function that makes it safer to respond to those events.”
Another capability for Mutual-Aid assistance the robot provides is a search-and-rescue function. Richmond said the robot can be tethered by a video cord to fire department equipment so it can provide a live video feed of an incident.
Assistant Fire Chief Adam Ballard said there may be some instances when Mutual Aid assistance isn’t adequate to cover a situation, such as a potential terrorist attack or a large-scale disaster. In these instances, the fire department can turn to the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) program.
MABAS makes assets from agencies across several jurisdictions or regions in Wisconsin available to support member requests. Along with mutual aid, the programs let departments know what assets are available from each agency that belongs to the system, Ballard said. Fort McCoy belongs to the MABAS Division 134 out of La Crosse.
“About 95 percent of the Wisconsin population is covered by MABAS agreements,” Ballard said. “MABAS is an organized way to get resources you need in a timely manner.