MABAS began in the northwestern suburbs of Chicago in 1968 when a lieutenant on Elk Grove – Don Kuhn, who had previously been with the Chicago Fire Department – suggested that large suburban fires could be responded to in a similar way to the CFD’s box alarms.

MABAS now has 69 divisions and is present in every one of Illinois’ 102 counties. All but about 30 departments are members of MABAS Illinois. Additionally, there are MABAS systems in Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, and some member departments in Iowa and Missouri.

Box Alarm is a term used to describe an incident of such size or complexity that the local resources are insufficient and a request is made for neighboring agencies to respond to assist. Each jurisdiction decides what constitutes that situation depending on their own resources and capabilities. At the Box Alarm level, the pre-arranged resources are assigned by the divisional dispatch center based on the box card for that jurisdiction and the type of incident. Box cards typically cover at least a fifth alarm assignment and also include interdivisional box alarm responses. There are several examples of box card templates elsewhere on this site.

MABAS is not a private company. It is an inter-governmental organization recognized by Illinois as the system for mutual aid responses and large scale mobilizations of fire, EMS, and special team resources in the state. Each of the 69 divisions has its own elected board and is given one vote on matters of MABAS policy.

MABAS membership is open to units of local government that provide fire and/or EMS service to that unit. Whether a municipal fire department, a fire protection district, or a contact provider, the governmental unit must sign the standard MABAS agreement and pass an ordinance or resolution authorizing membership. Each department that joins will become a member of the MABAS division that covers that area.

MABAS has a dues structure set by a policy that is a sliding scale based on the operating budget of the agency. Additional assessments may be made by the local MABAS division.

Currently, the dues structure is:

  • $29 for departments with an annual budget of less than $50,000
  • $143 for departments with an annual budget of $50,001 to $100,000
  • $257 for departments with an annual budget of $100,001 to $1,000,000
  • $371 for departments with an annual budget of $1,000,001 to $5,000,000
  • $400 for departments with an annual budget of $5,000,001 to $10,000,000
  • $743 for departments with an annual budget of $10,000,001 to $20,000,000
  • $1,137 for departments with an annual budget of $20,000,001 to $25,000,000
  • $1,486 for departments with an annual budget of $25,000,001 to $35,000,000
  • $2,192 for departments with an annual budget exceeding $35,000,001

When you got the vehicle – or any other MABAS resource – there was a signed Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that came with it. Refer to that document for specifics. Typically, however, MABAS will pay for insurance on vehicles and trailers and will facilitate any warranty repairs. Routine maintenance is generally up to the division.

The first call you should make in these situations is to your MABAS Regional Operations Branch Chief. They can steer you in the right direction and provide guidance for most issues. Operations Branch Chiefs are listed on the “About” link on our home page and shown on the map page as well. MABAS logo is a registered icon. It is only available through MABAS-authorized vendors.

Maybe, nothing. CIMS is a secure site that is only accessible by personal log-in and password. All individuals need to create their own profile.  Local chiefs have the authority to approve their members in CIMS for Tier 2 purposes.  Check your log-in and password carefully.  For further help, contact your regional Operations Branch Chief.

The MABAS Conferences – there are two – are held in February. The first conference is for fire command staff and generally runs from Monday through Wednesday of the conference week. It culminates with a Board Meeting (all divisions) on Wednesday afternoon. The conference features guest speakers on a variety of current fire issues, workshops, and seminars.

The Dispatchers’ conference begins on Wednesday and runs through Friday. It, too, features a group of important presentations, workshops, and an exercise.

Registration is via the MABAS website under Conferences and Training. Select the conference you wish to attend and complete the online registration. You can also register for hotel accommodations at the same site. MABAS Conferences registration usually is open sometime in early December.​

Not seeing your question here? Ask MABAS via email.