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PEMA Emergency Management Team Rolls Out Mission Manager during Illinois Tornado Threat; Cloud-Based Software Provides Situational Awareness, Tracking and Reporting

As multiple tornadoes ripped through the Midwest this month, carving a 50-mile path of destruction in Illinois that left two people dead, Mission Manager played a key role in preparation and readiness for the Plainfield Emergency Management Agency (PEMA).

The deadly EF-4 tornado outbreak leveled the small town of Fairdale, Ill., on April 10, as reported by abcNEWS.com, but fortunately the storm cells dissipated before reaching Plainfield. Nonetheless, PEMA remained on high alert throughout the evening.

As the tornadoes devastated the heartland, PEMA relied on Mission Manager to provide situational awareness, track radio logs and produce reports.  Under the leadership of Capt. Roger Bonuchi, the agency deployed its volunteer storm spotters to pre-determined locations while constantly monitoring national weather reports from its radio room.

The tornado threat is just one example of how PEMA uses the cloud-based emergency management tool. “We use Mission Manager for every deployment – for both emergencies and planned events,” said Bonuchi.

To learn more about how PEMA uses Mission Manager to prepare and deploy its volunteers, please see the case study below or download here.

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PEMA CASE STUDY

Located 35 miles southwest of Chicago, the Plainfield Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) is a volunteer organization that provides emergency services, disaster relief and community patrol services in the bustling Village of Plainfield, Ill. PEMA’s 35 volunteers serve a population of approximately 39,000 residents within a 23-square mile area, and also provide mutual aid as necessary to other responding agencies throughout northern Illinois.

PEMA, which falls under the umbrella of the Plainfield Police Department, has a dedicated Search and Rescue team and trained weather spotters on staff, and also maintains and operates 14 warning sirens within the village limits. The volunteers also assist the police and Plainfield Fire Protection District with services such as traffic control, special event details, and public awareness and training events.

PEMA began transitioning to Mission Manager in April 2014 – initially to consolidate its scheduling and timekeeping functions for planned events – which previously were performed on three separate platforms. The group’s administrators turned to Mission Manager when their scheduling tool was no longer available, and it made sense to streamline other functions as well. Within a few short months after adopting Mission Manager, PEMA saw a significant savings in time and money. And today, PEMA is using Mission Manager for every callout.

Main Challenge and Solution

“We were all over the place before Mission Manager. We relied on one program for scheduling, another for timekeeping and paging (our software development), a third for callout response, and homegrown solutions for reporting,” said Roger Bonuchi, who serves as Captain of PEMA in addition to his day job as a software engineer with AT&T. “That meant our PEMA IT staff had to maintain several websites, all of which had associated costs. Mission Manager has saved us thousands of dollars by consolidating these functions and saving us from buying a new server and software licenses.”

In addition, Capt. Bonuchi noted that Mission Manager has saved significant time with administrative tasks, such as producing end-of-year timekeeping reports for each member. “Now I can produce these reports within minutes, because the software automatically tracks each member’s hours based on the time/dates entered for each mission  it even records their hours via the RSVPs they’ve responded to in the calendar events.”

Real-Time Situational Awareness

PEMA Search and RescueIn addition to team and equipment management, PEMA now relies on Mission Manager for every callout, including a severe blizzard in February 2015, a serious car accident and the deadly tornadoes that targeted Illinois in April. The team also uses Mission Manager for large-scale community events, including parades, festivals, marathons and sporting events.

For instance, during the annual Plainfield Festival – a three-day event that attracts up to 15,000 people – PEMA rolled out Mission Manager to check-in/check-out and track their personnel in the field. “We had at least 20 people on many different assignments cycling through over three days,” said Capt. Bonuchi.

For emergencies, Mission Manager is used to quickly deploy teams, track radio logs and provide situational awareness with its mapping features. The volunteers, who work in collaboration with the police, also use the software to manage roadblocks and traffic control for events, in addition to scheduling shifts for members, tracking their hours and producing post-mission reports.

“With Mission Manager, we can easily keep track of who’s coming and who’s going – that’s impressive, because in the past, we had to do this with pen and paper, and track their hours later on our own website manually. It’s also an excellent tool for situational awareness for both planned and unplanned events.” – Capt. Roger Bonuchi

The majority of PEMA’s unplanned emergency callouts include traffic/security/support for house fires, floods, high winds/ tornados, car accidents, and lost persons. Severe weather events have also included two floods in 2008, major snow storms in 2011 and 2015, and an F5 tornado in 1990 that killed 29 people.

Rescue Training 4“We keep our skills up-to-date to ensure we are prepared should a disaster occur,” ” Capt. Bonuchi noted, “and Mission Manager is one of the many tools that assists us in protecting public safety.”

Capt. Bonuchi, who is also an Amateur Radio operator, became of a member of PEMA more than 12 years ago following the 9/11 tragedy. “I was part of an Amateur Radio club that wanted to use our skills to help protect our community,” he said. “So I joined PEMA which grew from an initial 5 people to 17, and now 35 members. I’ve learned a great deal along the way. It’s definitely a rewarding experience to serve the community.”

For more information about PEMA, including membership requirements, please  visit  www.plainfieldema.org

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