What Does MABAS Mean? How does it work?

On the blog, we’ve talked about firefighting acronyms before such as BLEVE. Well, today, we want to discuss another one that’s known as MABAS. You might have heard this acronym in passing at the fire department, but you have no idea what it means and you’re too scared to ask. What is MABAS?

MABAS stands for the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System, a mutual aid response system for specialized incident operational teams, EMS, and fire departments. Through MABAS, states have access to specialized teams and resources.

In today’s article, we’ll explain what MABAS is in more detail, including how it works and which states have a MABAS system in place. You certainly won’t want to miss it, so keep reading! 

What Is MABAS?

As we touched on in the intro, MABAS is short for Mutual Aid Box Alarm System.

MABAS deploys mutual aid in states throughout the United States that includes special incident operational teams, EMS, and state fire departments. 

Although the rules vary by state, the MABAS team would be called into effect, so to speak, if a state governor were to order a Declaration of Disaster.

States with MABAS teams usually sign the assembly of the team into law via memorandum or senate bill. 

In many cases, the creation of the MABAS team is to relieve statewide emergency management agencies that are overwhelmed when working in an area stricken by disaster. 

What Can MABAS Do? 

Now that you have a better understanding of what MABAS is, what exactly can this specially assigned group of professionals do? 

The answer is whatever a state needs in an emergency scenario, really. For example, Illinois, which has a very well-established MABAS presence with 69 divisions across the state, has 40 special operations teams in all. 

One is an urban search and rescue team (that’s state-sponsored). Illinois MABAS also has technical rescue teams (39 in all) and underwater rescue and recovery teams (15 in all). 

Further, Illinois MBAS offers fleet support mechanics, Incident Management Team members, and certified fire investigators ready to work on mobile support teams for assistance with “large-scale incidents requiring complicated and time-consuming efforts beyond the capabilities of most agencies.”

In the case of Illinois, at least, their MABAS members are also readily available to work on other counterpart MABAS agencies, of which the Illinois MABAS website says there are more than 1,100. 

The MABAS teams use a radio frequency to communicate. They will also have run cards that determine what the local risk need is ahead of entering an emergency scenario. The run cards are created by the agency themselves.

Some of the situations that Illinois’ MABAS team have responded to include Hurricanes Ike, Gustav, and Katrina (yes, even though all were in Louisiana) as well as the Harrisburg, Utica, and Roanoke tornados. 

The team also assisted during the Tamara train derailment and the LaSalle Bank Building fire in Chicago. 

How Does MABAS Benefit the Community? 

When disaster strikes, the last thing any community wants to have to worry about is how it will find and mobilize the resources to begin cleanup efforts, rescue attempts, putting out fires, and other disaster relief.

If you’re interested in learning how to benefit your community, you should read our article on how to become a firefighter with no experience.

MABAS provides those resources. The volunteers who are part of MABAS are ready to jump in at any time and offer valuable services in a time of emergency and great need. 

There is almost no shortage of the services that MABAS can provide and the challenges they will respond to. Those include domestic terrorism, natural disasters, and other threats to the wellbeing and safety of the average civilian. 

Which States Have MABAS?

Despite how highly valued the addition of a MABAS team is, you’d be surprised to learn that they’re not mobilized across the country.

As of this writing, only Ohio, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, Missouri, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Illinois have active MABAS teams. 

Can I Join MABAS? 

Are you interested in saving lives and making a difference in communities both in your neighborhood and across the country? Then you might wish to offer your services as part of a MABAS team.

You can contact the MABAS division nearest you via phone or email and ask about joining. Most MABAS teams are always looking for new members, so your interest in joining will certainly be appreciated.

What if you want to start a new MABAS division in your state? According to the Illinois MABAS page, you need a governing body to agree to an ordinance or resolution that officially establishes a MABAS agency or division near you. 

MABAS or the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System is a volunteer team of incident operational professionals, EMS, and fire departments who step in during governmentally-declared natural disasters to offer aid, search and rescue, and other valuable, often life-saving services.

While MABAS operates on a volunteer basis and thus it would never be asked of you to do so, if you want to make an even greater difference as a firefighter, you might consider joining MABAS.