This comes on the heels of conversations with the Mutual Aid Box
Alarm System organization for the state of Illinois, which sought
out Lincoln and Logan County because they have an active water
rescue program in place.
The statewide mutual aid program, commonly called MABAS, offers
assistance to small, rural fire departments with special needs.
Included in the program is the lending of specialized equipment that
small departments are not able to afford on their own for rescue or
The organization also works with fire and emergency services
throughout the state to maintain a network of special services such
as the water rescue and make them available to any area in need.
Fulscher said that MABAS is interested in assisting the local
water rescue and dive team with future funding for equipment and
training, but there is a catch. Currently the city of Lincoln owns
the watercraft, and EMA manages the dive team. Under MABAS rules,
the dive team will have to be managed by a fire department.
Fulscher said this was part of what he wants to research with the
two local fire departments. Currently there are no dive team members
on the city fire department, but there are several on the rural
Fulscher and the two chiefs, Chad Letterle for the rural district
and Mark Miller for the city, need to discuss whether or not it is
feasible for the fire departments to take over the program
Fulscher said he needs permission from the city as well as the
county to go ahead. The city placed this item on their voting agenda
for next week.
After the meeting, Miller spoke with LDN about the MABAS program
and what they are proposing.
Currently there are only about 10 water rescue programs in the
entire state, with the majority of them specializing in lake rescues
Miller said MABAS contacted Lincoln because the city owns its own
boat, has trained operators on the city department and has a trained
dive team already in place via EMA.
They are also one of very few teams who are trained and
experienced in river and creek rescues.
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The problem is that according to MABAS, the dive team needs to be
under the management of a fire department in order for them to go
What Fulsher, Letterle and Miller will be looking at is housing
the dive team at Lincoln Rural, which means all the equipment
currently stored at EMA would go to that fire department. The city
would continue to maintain the watercraft and its trained personnel
in the city department.
If the group moves forward, the water rescue and dive team would
then be placed in an "on call" situation, where MABAS could request
that they travel to any area within the state and assist other
departments with their emergencies.
For the city fire department, Miller said there would be very
little change in practice. He also noted that this is not a program
that will be implemented in the immediate future. It could be a
couple of years before MABAS activates the program and starts
handing out funding for it.
This also does not mean that EMA will be left out of the
equation. For MABAS' purposes, the program would be managed by the
fire departments, but EMA will still be actively involved in all
emergency situations in the Lincoln and Logan County area and will
continue to reach out to other areas when needed, just as it has in
[By NILA SMITH]