By Ryan Kryska
The Holt Journal
The initiative is headlined by a Mutual Aid Box Alarm System, a Joint Arson Task Force, and Blue Card training, which have all been set in place within the past year.
The automatic mutual aid system spans political and geographical borders by sending the closest unit to emergencies.
“MABAS is a closest-unit response system. It provides all personnel needed and is pre-scripted throughout the entire county to be efficient and safe,” said Delhi Township Fire Chief Brian Ball.
“MABAS organizes the response by what resources are available and it sets the game plan for public safety,” said Delta Township Fire Chief John Clark.
“To achieve automatic mutual aid we must look more alike,” said East Lansing City Clerk Marie Wicks. “We must work on the same shifts and speak the same language. We are not completely there, but blue card training is designed to achieve this continuity.”
Blue card training has been a huge asset to the shared service municipalities, and is a large part of the mutual aid system’s success.
Wicks said that Delhi and Delta townships have invested in simulators that have the firefighters work through tough scenarios via Blue Card training. This trains senior command and opens the municipalities to collaborative training.
“Blue Card training helps make high-risk low-frequency decisions. It trains officers on when and what decisions to make, and makes officers calm and prepared,” said Ball.
“A $793,000 grant has been received to fund Active Violence Training. This trains all six communities for special technique rescue and HAZMAT,” said Clark.
Clark said a big Delta Township advantage from the Shared Services Initiative has been on the township’s East side, having saved $500,000 by not needing to re-open its station 3 on Snow Road.
“Buying equipment together saves on costs,” said Clark. “Shared services will continue to grow, and continue to provide quicker response times.”
“Traditional public safety walls are coming down, 200 years of tradition has been unimpeded by progress,” said Meridian Township Fire Chief Fred Cowper.
“Police and fire departments are not losing their identity,” said Delhi Township Clerk Evan Hope.
Although police departments are not specified in the initiative, shared services are underway in their operations.
“The economy re-encourages this collaboration, it maximizes everyone’s dollar,” said Meridian Police Chief David Hall.
Hall said EMS has been more inclusive and now plays an expanded role.
“There used to be two dispatch centers, now there is one unified dispatch system, which saves money,” said Hall.
“Shared services are a good financial aspect that helps us work wiser and be proactive,” said Lansing Police Department Captain of Staff Services Daryl Green.
Wicks said the short-term focus is on being prepared for events such as power outages.
The initiative includes the fire departments of Lansing, East Lansing, Delhi Township, Delta Township, Meridian Township, and Lansing Charter Township.
“A grant came available through the Michigan Municipal League to help fund areas of collaboration to save money and be more efficient,” said Wicks.
Wicks said in late 2010 the fire chiefs reached out to managers of the six municipalities, and in early 2011 the fire chiefs and managers began to meet.
The newly formed committee unanimously agreed to a study conducted by Plate Moran to access the best collaborative services for an efficient and cost-effective fire service for the area.
The Plante Moran study broke the shared services down into four phases. Phase I, to establish a formal platform for collaboration, phase II, to expand collaboration, phase III, to have intermediate collaboration and consolidation, and phase IV, to have final collaboration and consolidation.
“The study was very important for gathering data about where we are and where we can go,” said Wicks. “The study has been the catalyst for sitting down and getting to know each other, it has improved relationships.”
“People were contentious at first, there was concern citizens would expect immediate consolidation of Lansing, East Lansing, Delta, Delhi, Meridian, and Lansing Charter,” said Wicks. “Communities have different needs, there was concern it would be unfairly beneficial to one community.”
“We have really worked to overcome this perspective, it is in everyone’s best interest to make sure Greater Lansing is solvent,” said Wicks.
The 6 municipalities are currently in the late stages of phase II, with phases III and IV scheduled to commence in 2015 and 2018.
Cowper said the shared services initiative won an award at the Michigan Municipal League Conference for Best New Initiative.
“We need the state to step in and give us more grant money. The funding is out there, we have just been overlooked a couple times and do not know why. We think what we are doing is terrific,” said Wicks. “Shared services will impact future staffing, safety, and will constrain costs.”