DETROIT -

It’s hard to believe, but until recently, there was no statewide firefighter mutual aid response plan in place to deal with a major emergency in Michigan.

That is the purpose behind an exercise in Novi which coincides with other exercises going on across the state.

The training drill is taking place at the Suburban Collection Showplace. The mock scenario involves a large building fire in Novi.

"We need to be able to mobilize the resources pretty rapidly and we need it to be organized," said Troy Fire Department Chief Bill Nelson.

This is the first big test of a statewide firefighter mutual aid plan. Hundreds of firefighters from across the state took part in different locations.

They are going through the steps to respond to a major emergency quickly and efficiently.

Although this case in Novi is a big fire, this plan could be used for a variety of incidents -- a train derailment, a tornado or even a terrorist attack in Michigan.

Before 2006 there was no statewide plan in place for mutual aid, rather, only agreements between local departments.

The Michigan Fire Chiefs Association created the statewide mutual aid agreement known as the mutual aid box alarm system or MABAS.

Chief Nelson is the president of MABAS.

"It became apparent to us during hurricane Katrina when the state of Louisiana sent out a message asking for fire resources, and it didn't work well in Michigan because the fire resources are all owned locally by fire departments and they aren't really state assets," Nelson said.

More than 200 Michigan fire departments are now members of MABAS.