The workday of an emergency management expert can be tedious -- filled with lots of paperwork, planning, training and drills. There are fire drills, annual tornado drills, active shooter exercises, event action plans, critical incident communication plans, and building emergency plans, just to name a few. But they say it’s so worth it.
Indiana University's emergency management and continuity staff embrace these aspects of their job so that they are able to do what several IUEMC staff have been doing for two weeks -- helping with the massive, national response in Hurricane Irma-ravaged Florida.
Because of their training and expertise, they could be plugged into leadership roles within Florida's State Emergency Response Team and sent across the state as "boots on the ground" to make sure supplies that arrived around the clock in the Keys were properly distributed, or that a massive influx of donations to a particular county were managed.
When Indiana Gov. Eric J. Holcomb authorized the deployment of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security's Incident Management Assistance Team for Irma's response, four IU employees from IUPUI and IU Bloomington began preparing for the drive south.
See IUEMC Director Diane Mack discuss the deployment on Facebook.
Mack's IU cohort included Carlos Garcia and Ryan Chandler, respectively the director and assistant director for emergency management and continuity at IUPUI; and John Summerlot, director of Veteran Support Services at IU Bloomington. Summerlot has previously worked for IUEMC and also teaches emergency management to students at the IU School of Public Health.
"We're immensely pleased to be able to provide whatever assistance we can to Florida, as part of the Indiana team," said Mark Bruhn, associate vice president for public safety and institutional assurance. "As a very important side benefit, any experience gained by IU staff on these deployments (there have been others) is brought back and has a direct benefit to our own university emergency response and management efforts.”
Mack and Co. are working with first responders and emergency managers from Florida and from all over the country. The IU cohort left their families and creature comforts for a deployment expected to last 17 days. For much of this time Summerlot slept on a cot inside a Miami-Dade Fire Rescue (mobile) Command Center in the Keys.
Mack, Garcia and Chandler began working within the Florida State Emergency Response Team in Tallahassee but later headed south to meet up with Summerlot in Collier County. As they drove south, they passed a convoy of utility linemen and military personnel driving north as out-of-state resources began demobilizing.
Team members worked on average 12-hour shifts in a state of "organized chaos," or as Chandler clarified, "organized busy-ness." Summerlot worked 14- and 15-hour days and was on call 24-7. Because of the management system used and the training IU staff have undergone, they could begin working almost as soon as they arrived (some got as little as 2 hours of sleep before their shifts began).
"It gives us experience in managing, coordinating and supporting response and recovery efforts for a major incident," Chandler said. "It helps us increase our ability to be part of an incident management team and to manage an incident that happens at Indiana University."
In recent years, IU staff deployed with Indiana response teams to help with Hurricane Matthew, Superstorm Sandy, the deadly Henryville tornadoes in Indiana, and also the avian influenza outbreak, also in southern Indiana.
IU Emergency Management and Continuity is part of Public Safety and Institutional Assurance, which falls under the Office of the Executive Vice President for University Academic Affairs and the Office of the Vice President for IT and CIO.