|In times of emergency or distress, neighbors often help
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.
Fort McCoy Fire Department
firefighters participate in a Chemical, Biological,
Radiological, Nuclear and Enhanced Conventional Weapons training
exercise. (Fort McCoy Fire
“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
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
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.