Oneida County Emergency Management pre-plans for a disaster Submitted: 09/29/2013
Story By Shardaa Gray

Photos By Shardaa Gray

RHINELANDER - Natural disasters don't happen often in the Northwoods.

But Oneida County Emergency Management needs to make sure their fire departments know what to do if it does.

Oneida County Airport wasn't just for planes this weekend.

Fire departments and more than 40 firefighters trained for a natural disaster Saturday morning.

They practice every other month, but nothing like this.

"This is the first time we actually incorporated MABAS, our Mutual Aid Box Alarm System into a water shuttle drill." said Oneida County Emergency Management director, Ken Kortenhof.

MABAS is a system that Wisconsin adopted in 2006.

"Basically what that does, we pre-plan them ahead of time and they don't have to worry about deciding at the time which units to call and where they're coming from," Kortenhof said.

"It's a good system and it works well with the fire service."

Five different stations set up on the airports runway.

First stop was checking in.

The second station was incident command post.

"Right now they're directing the different tanker trucks and different tender trucks where to go and how to shuttle water." said Kortenhof.

After that it's off to the lake to fill the tankers.

Each truck can hold about one thousand gallons of water.

Then they have to find a place to put the extra water.

"When we're at a fire or something, we have what's called drop tanks. The tenders come in and they fill those drop tanks up and then those drop tanks feed the engines. The engines spray on to the fire." Kortenhof said.

Firefighters say the training helps departments communicate better.

"We have a number of different departments that specifically don't work together," Kortenhof said.

"The MABAS system and exercises like this give them the ability to work together and to practice what they're doing. So in the event they have to in real life, it goes a lot smoother."

A smoother response could save lives during a disaster.

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