Nebraska emergency management agency raises performance, saving time/money/energy with ESS` hosted solution


Courtesy of IHS Markit

For over 15 years, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has been using ESS crisis management software and services. NEMA is responsible for emergency planning and response across the state's 93 counties with about 37 full time employees and a few interns. Located in FEMA Region VII with Iowa, Missouri and Kansas, Nebraska faces severe blizzards, floods and storms each year ranking 5th in frequency of tornadoes. Sue Krogman, NEMA's IT administrator, needed reliable software that could be hosted, secured and maintained outside the state. After reviewing and evaluating several options, NEMA selected ESS' Essential Suite® software, with its Essential Emergency™ module.

'ESS Essential Emergency software is the lifeline to our locals and other State Agencies when we have a disaster,' declared Ms. Krogman. 'That's why it was imperative to find a software solution that would be hosted off site. It's too easy for systems to go down because we're usually sitting in the middle of whatever is going on. So we opted for a system based outside of Nebraska. We chose the ESS hosted solution on an SQL server. It's easy to use, secure and reliable. We've always liked the logging capability within the software and the user access restrictions give us an opportunity to 'lock' down any incident.'

'In addition,' she continued, 'ESS technical support is the best. They're second to none. As an IT Administrator, I appreciate the ESS tech team because they are available 24/7. Your phone call gets answered, even if it is 2 o'clock in the morning. I just have wonderful praise for the ESS support team and that's definitely a big plus for this company.'

NEMA uses its ESS software daily. Any type of weather warning that could cause property damage or loss of life triggers a log. From severe storm warnings to downed aircraft, any incident that is reported is immediately entered into the system's operational logs.

In the past, NEMA team members typically traveled – sometimes as far as 400 miles – to write up or assist local personnel with damage assessments. These reports were then handled manually or the data was keyed into spreadsheets, which meant additional time was required for transferring the information into the solution when they got back to the office. In addition, the NEMA team members don't always know what conditions they are driving in to and their personal safety and health could be at risk. The long distance drive could require an overnight stay, adding additional delays and expenses.

'Our Assistant Director asked me to increase our ESS licenses to 150 seats so we could roll out the tool to our local agencies across the state. That's how happy he is with this software solution. He likes the program so much that he wanted everyone in the state to use it. It's paid for out of our state budget so there's no burden on the locals' resources,' reported Ms. Krogman. 'One of the biggest savings is the time and costs associated with initially sending people out to the field to manually fill out damage assessment forms and then either faxing the information or calling us to relay it so that we could type it into the incident log. Now data entry can be done at the local level in the field.

'We did this recently with Douglas County. There was no paperwork exchanged. By allowing Douglas County to enter information directly into a log that we could monitor, we did not have to wait for faxes or an initial damage assessment because they just attached it to their log. It worked out really nice and our Assistant Director was able to view the operational log from his home.'

'Changing our team's focus from handling clerical duties like data entry to more critical issues and reporting, well that's where the value really lies for me. The adoption of the new tool also helps address accountability of the information that's entered. We no longer experience errors of interpretation due to hand writing, terms used or other issues,' said Ms. Krogman.

Many other agencies within the state can now use the ESS system including the Nebraska State Patrol, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Agriculture, the Game and Parks Commission, State Fire Marshal, Department of Roads, the Nebraska National Guard and others. It is also used by the federal government during a major event. FEMA joins NEMA in their Emergency Operation Center (EOC) to add to and view logs on incidents. Since ESS software can be readily accessed via web browser, State Agency ESF (Emergency Support Functions) representatives can now sit in their own EOC or office and no longer need to physically go onsite to the NEMA EOC – that includes the Governor and Lt. Governor, who can get up-to-the-minute reports upon request.

'This past summer we had a very large multi-county incident,' reported Ms. Krogman. 'Tornados came through for about three straight weeks and we used the software daily for that event. We used the attachments function for such things as scanned forms, maps and photos. This allowed us to keep everything that had to do with that particular incident all in one place.

'More recently, we are using ESS software to log everything that the State of Nebraska is doing for the H1N1 virus. We have given top-level individuals special permissions to create messages, deploy resources, manage personnel and keep track of shipments. Because of the level of security needed in this situation, we were able to create a Site Profile and only allow access by those that need it. Executives in multiple State Agencies were able to enter messages that were shared on a secure site, allowing the necessary decisions to be made.

'Agency accountability and overtime for our employees are also tracked with this system. We use a protocol for creating a log that lets us know whether or not the EOC was opened or officially activated. This allows us to keep track of the hours that our on-call duty officers are accumulating.'

As Ms. Krogman summarizes, 'We've settled on ESS software as our system of choice and we would certainly recommend it to anyone needing a reliable crisis management solution.'

The Challenge

  • Assure team members easy access to system whenever, wherever needed
  • Enhance incident logging and accountability across multiple agencies
  • Minimize risk of agency disruption with reliable, continuous system availability
  • Strong technical support as needed

The Solution

Essential Suite® including

  • Essential Emergency™
  • ESS Hosting Services™

The Results

  • Increase to 150 licenses gives multiple agencies anytime, anywhere access via Internet browser
  • Increased team focus and performance thanks to reduced data entry duties and improved information for decisions
  • 25%+ reduction annually in driving time to incident/exercise locations statewide
  • Hundreds of additional hours saved annually on data entry and reduced risk of errors by automating damage assessment reports from local agencies
  • Excellent software support from vendor

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