Northern Emergency Management Aid Compact Benefits Michigan Fire Response – Wisconsin Emergency Management

Northern Emergency Management Aid Compact Benefits Michigan Fire Response – Wisconsin Emergency Management

Firefighters battling an industrial fire in Menominee, Michigan in October 2022. Courtesy: US Environmental Protection Agency.

When a major fire broke out at an industrial warehouse in Menominee, Michigan, in October of this year, first responders quickly realized that the incident was something they would not be able to handle alone. As is often the case when battling a major fire, the Menominee Fire Department called in help from other departments. However, given Menominee’s location in comparison to the rest of Michigan, help from within the state may have to come from several hours away.

“A lot of Michigan’s big resources are in the lower part of the state, four to five hours away,” said Cathy Frank, Marinette County emergency manager, whose Wisconsin county shares a border with Menominee. “They were already tapping a lot of Michigan resources in the Upper Peninsula, but a lot of them are volunteer forces that are small and don’t have the ability to send out an entire contingent in one day.”

Many fire departments rely on existing agreements through the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS), an organization that allows participating departments to share resources when responding to a fire or other incident. However, MABAS is designed for the movement of fire department property in-state, which presented a problem for Menominee fire officials as they began seeking assistance from Wisconsin communities.

To help provide more resources, Michigan has Northern Emergency Management Support Compact (NEMAC). Approved by Congress in 2013, NEMAC allows for cross-border mutual aid assistance between the 10 US states and four Canadian provinces that share borders. This agreement helps assure agencies that they can be reimbursed for the costs associated with responding to an incident and that their personnel will be protected if they are injured.

“NEMAC is for situations like this so we can help each other across borders,” said Greg Engle, Wisconsin Emergency Management Administrator. “Being compact allowed both states to approve cross-border deployment with just a quick phone call, and Wisconsin fire departments were able to dispatch teams and equipment to Michigan within hours.”

Wisconsin MABAS and the Wisconsin Fire Service Emergency Response Plan were used to quickly identify resources that were available to assist Michigan. This existing structure allows for quick coordination of assets to meet the needs identified by the State of Michigan, which were requested using NEMAC.

In total, 15 Wisconsin fire departments responded to calls under NEMAC to dispatch strike teams to provide firefighters and other needed equipment to Menominee. Responding departments include City of Peshtigo, City of Peshtigo, Grover Porterfield, Wausaukie, Oconto, Oconto Falls, Gillett, Appleton, Sumiko, Lawrence, Wayside, Greenleaf, Pulaski and Howard. The City of Marinette Fire Department also responded under an existing mutual aid agreement. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Department of Health Services were also engaged in the response.

“I want to thank all of the first responders in Wisconsin who joined with Michigan to assist in extinguishing this fire, preventing it from spreading further, and providing relief to firefighters in Michigan who have already been battling for several days Battling this fire”. said Capt. Kevin Sweeney, deputy state director of emergency management and commander of the Michigan State Police’s Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division.

Sweeney said, “In addition to local mutual aid agreements, the Northern Emergency Management Assistance Compact Agreement allowed Administrator Engel and I to move quickly to deploy much-needed fire resources across the border from Wisconsin to Menominee County and the City of Menominee. ” “Continued communication, relationship building, training and exercise will only serve to strengthen this compact.”

The fire in Menominee burned for 16 days and destroyed large portions of a 560,000-square-foot warehouse. Frank, who has worked with Menominee County on previous responses that required cross-border coordination with Marinette County, believes NEMAC was key to extinguishing the fire as quickly as possible.

“To be able to pull in the Wisconsin fire departments was huge,” Frank said. “I’m really glad NEMAC was there.”

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