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Du Quoin emergency responders better prepared since 9/11

Managing Editor
Posted on 9/11/2018, 9:14 AM

DU QUOIN -- Today marks the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001 -- one of the most tragic days in American history. Thousands of civilians lost their lives that day following the cowardly act of assassins who used airplanes to attack the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington. A fourth plane was likely either headed for the White House or Capitol building in Washington when passengers aboard Flight 93 fought back, causing the plane to crash in a field in Pennsylvania. All lost their lives.

It's been 17 years since that day. Much has changed, including how first responders like police, fire and emergency medical technicians do their jobs. If there can be a silver lining from such a tragic event like 9/11, it would have to be that our first responders are better prepared to serve the people than ever before.

"9/11 was a watershed moment for emergency services," said Du Quoin Fire Chief David Dakota. "Before 9/11, we all did our own thing and we only talked with one another when necessary. But since that time, the barriers have been broken down. We communicate much better with one another and are much closer. There is also a commonality with all our training. And because of that, we are much better prepared to handle emergencies of any kind than we ever were before."

Dakota said MABAS (Mutual Aid Box Alarm System) is proving to be invaluable to first responders throughout the state and Midwest.

MABAS, as stated on its website, is a statewide mutual aid system, which has been in existence since the late 1960s. Pre Sept. 11, MABAS was heavily rooted throughout northern Illinois. Since then MABAS has rapidly grown throughout Illinois, as well as Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan and parts of Iowa and Missouri.

Day-to-day MABAS extra alarms are systematically designed to provide speed of response of emergency resources to the stricken community during an ongoing emergency. Declarations of Disaster provide a MABAS sustained system of response on top of daily mutual aid activations. Today, MABAS includes approximately 1,175 of the state's 1,246 fire departments organized within 69 divisions.

MABAS divisions geographically span an area from Lake Michigan to Iowa's border and south almost into Kentucky. Wisconsin divisions also share MABAS with their Illinois counterparts. The cities of Chicago, St. Louis, and Milwaukee are also MABAS member agencies. MABAS has expanded into all 102 Illinois counties.

Captain Adam Hill with the Du Quoin Fire Department said 9/11 forced emergency responders to prepare for any potential disaster -- natural or man-made.

"We train for different scenarios," Hill said. "And we have learned a lot over time."

Hill said grants funded through Homeland Security, coupled with city dollars, have not only paid for better firefighting gear and accessories, but also more detailed training, an ongoing process with each firefighter.

Chris Robinson, a veteran with the Du Quoin Police Department, said officers are trained to take even the most benign-sounding threat as seriously as any other threat.

"The way things are today ... you have to," he said. "We work with the schools a lot more now than we used to. We do more building checks and we continue to train for that day that we hope never comes -- an active shooter, for example. We need to be able to respond quickly and with force where needed."

Robinson said officers have also learned basic medical procedures to supplement their crime-fighting responsibilities.

"We've been very lucky here in Du Quoin. We haven't had to deal with issues like other communities have, but we can't get too relaxed. We have to stay prepared."