MABAS Logo.jpg


The Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) is an organization of hundreds of fire departments in the Illinois and Southern Wisconsin. MABAS provides an orderly move up of equipment to the scene of fires, accidents or other incidents. Equipment is moved around according to predetermined lists, called "Box Cards" Each card covers specific types of incidents in specific areas. Small towns may have a single Fire box card, larger towns may have dozens. MABAS was recently adopted statewide in Illinois for Fire and EMS Mutual Aid. More divisions are being added monthly and eventually the entire state will be part of MABAS divisions. Neighboring states are also joining, including Missouri, Indiana, Iowa and Kentucky.

MABAS is broken down into "Divisions" Each Division has a Headquarters Dispatch and a Back-up Dispatch. When a department realizes it can not contain an incident alone they contact the local MABAS Division Dispatch and requests a "Box Alarm" Box Alarms have 5 levels, 1 thru 5. The first alarm, usually just called a "Box" typically brings 2 or 3 engines, 1 or 2 trucks, and perhaps some EMS or other specialized equipment. Also, "Chiefs" are assigned. Chiefs (which might actually be Lt.'s, Captains or Deputies) are assigned to various tasks like "Staging", "Rehab", "Safety", or "Sectors". They report to "Command" (who is in overall command of the incident). Command may be in a vehicle with a green flashing light. MABAS has adopted the National Incident Command system to coordinate scenes in an orderly and recognized manner. This allows agencies that may be unfamiliar with each other to work together under a unified command and with common procedures.

When a MABAS Alarm is requested the MABAS Dispatcher will send out Plectron tones of 1082 Hz (1.5 sec.) and 701 Hz (3.5 sec.) on the NIFERN frequency of 154.265 MHz. to set off alert receivers at various fire dispatch centers. These tones are to be used by ALL MABAS Divisions. Dispatch Centers will then listen to the announcement and dispatch their equipment when requested to the scene or to another station on a "Change of Quarters" After the equipment is dispatched and en-route they notify the Division HQ on NIFERN and all further communications are with MABAS. Once a unit is at the scene they report in to Command. Most incidents use a "Staging Area" where responding units will wait until called to a position at the scene.