A Major Step Forward: Private Sector Resilience Coordination

Over the past two decades, the public sector has started to recognize the private sector as a key partner in emergency preparedness, response, and recovery operations. Moreover, as local, state, and federal agencies have refined their own efforts to prepare for, respond to, and recover from major natural disasters, the role of the private sector as a co-partner not only has become more prominent but also has made that sector much more than a consumer of emergency management services. Today, in fact, the private sector’s broad array of services, goods, and supply-chain interdependencies are vital for maximizing response efficiencies and achieving the timeliness needed in responding to any major disaster.

The whole-of-community response to Superstorm Sandy in 2012 set the stage for redefining “community” on a truly national scale and now recognizes the private sector as not only consumers of emergency services but also as the delivery partners needed to distribute and disseminate those services. Even before Sandy, however, many communities throughout the country had already: (a) recognized the urgent need for major improvements in preparedness; and (b) started developing the capacity needed for assessing, coordinating, and managing the broad range of private sector capabilities needed to expand and improve all-hazards response and recovery capabilities. To help address these and other diverse needs, there also has been increased interest in and support for the creation and staffing of business-oriented Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs).

There is greater value in this approach than there was in simply leveraging private sector input or representation at an existing public sector EOC when a disaster occurs. Business EOCs have continued to be refined since their inception in the mid-2000s. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) leads the new and much more collaborative effort – in large part through the BEOC Alliance, a consortium of private businesses, nongovernmental organizations, academia, the U.S. Department of Defense, and many other partners.

In the very near future, according to current plans, the District of Columbia (D.C.) will formally announce the opening of the D.C. government’s own Business Emergency Management Operations Center (BEMOC). The D.C. BEMOC will be extremely well positioned as a standing entity within the District’s own Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency. Although D.C. itself is not a particularly strong commercial or industrial national asset, it nonetheless possesses several unique advantages and opportunities for emergency managers at all levels of government. Moreover, because the District is a jurisdictionally compressed area, the city’s officials recognize the need to leverage all local assets in a coordinated and integrated manner in order to manage and cope with the full spectrum of potentially disruptive risks.

The Mirroring of Selected Emergency Support Functions The D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency’s BEMOC is aligned with six key sector areas described in the 2013 Presidential Policy Directive 21 – better known as the Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Directive – and will undoubtedly be included in upcoming revisions to the National Infrastructure Preparedness Plan. The key BEMOC sectors, which also mirror applicable components of the city’s and nation’s emergency support functions, are (not necessarily in this order of importance): Food, Financial Services, Fuel, Transportation, Hospitality, and Medical.

Inclusion of the private sector, as structured at the BEMOC, is expected to achieve not only greater depth in sector-specific capabilities but also to expand the breadth of sector interdependency preparedness and management responsibilities. The BEMOC structure and functionality have not only incorporated the “best practice” examples of other business EOCs – for example, Rhode Island, Missouri, and Louisiana, as well as FEMA’s National Business EOC – but also have revised and tailored those examples to better serve the District’s unique and nationally prominent environment.

BEMOC Operations & Future Role The BEMOC will operate, according to current plans, as both a brick-and-mortar facility and a virtual entity. Representatives from each of the sectors mentioned above will be selected by the BEMOC leadership and will be expected to quickly respond to the BEMOC after activation of any major incident or event. The virtual interaction planned is expected to bring additional depth to each sector through a broad array of interactive communication options. Moreover, because of and thanks to the sector-specific preparedness liaisons developed, coupled with duplicative communications capabilities, the BEMOC as a whole will be uniquely scalable in operations ranging from routine events to extreme incidents.

As a standing element within the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, the BEMOC will serve primarily in support of public sector emergency management initiatives. However, the BEMOC’s role in mapping and cataloging private sector capabilities and assets in advance of an event is expected to greatly improve efficiencies in public sector responses. In addition, BEMOC’s direct private sector connectivity will speed the uniform dissemination of messages, enhance overall community-based situational awareness, and even help guide future decisions on resource allocation. BEMOC’s intricate private sector network also should be of significant value during post-disaster recovery operations.

In the preparedness field per se, the BEMOC will play a significant role in establishing uniformity with and cohesion to and throughout the current widely disparate array of private sector preparedness plans. A fundamental BEMOC goal is to be as inclusive as possible of sector-specific business interests so that opportunities for training, information sharing, exercises, and other preparedness activities will be much more widely available – thereby enhancing community resilience as a whole. To help meet that goal, BEMOC is already engaged with various community groups, including: the D.C. Hospitality Association, the D.C. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the InfraGard National Capital Region Members Alliance, and many others.

Participation Values – Plus a Long Look Ahead Private business participation in BEMOC offers a number of rewards that are good for business as well. Participation is free and highly adaptable to the capacities and desires of individual businesses. Participating companies must have a physical presence within D.C., of course, but it is expected that the BEMOC concept will become more inclusive and expand throughout the entire National Capital Region. Whatever happens in the future, though, it seems clear that, by establishing a formal relationship with BEMOC, local businesses will receive more sector-specific and locality-specific messages than are currently available through the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency.

Members also will have access to the Center’s business-to-business portal, an invaluable tool for information sharing and the development of immediate and more accurate situational awareness. BEMOC participants also will receive timely notices of upcoming briefings, training exercises, and best-practice programs. Of perhaps even greater importance, BEMOC participants will network on a continuing basis with other key personnel within each participant’s interdependency matrix, as well as with public sector emergency services providers, to develop and strengthen overall community resilience. Whatever else happens, it is reasonably anticipated that business values and returns on investment may, in extreme cases, determine whether the business even exists after the disaster.

In short, the business EOC practice is expanding throughout the United States. The D.C. government’s adoption and support of the BEMOC serves as just one important example of what seems to be a rapidly growing national trend. Moreover, as public sector budgets decrease, greater community-based integration with the private sector will become even more essential.

However, effective integration in delivering sustained resilience cannot in any case be limited to the occurrence of a disaster event or incident. Effective whole-of-community resilience requires significant and sustained advance work – for which it is difficult to quantify profitability and/or return on investment. Nonetheless, the still relatively new business EOC model is and will continue to serve as a best practice for business profitability as well as public sector service quality in fiscally austere times.

Joseph W. Trindal

As founder and president of Direct Action Resilience LLC, Joseph Trindal leads a team of retired federal, state, and local criminal justice officials providing consulting and training services to public and private sector organizations enhancing leadership, risk management, preparedness, and police services. He serves as a senior advisor to the U.S. Department of Justice, International Criminal Justice Training and Assistance Program (ICITAP) developing and leading delivery of programs that build post-conflict nations’ capabilities for democratic policing and applied modern investigative techniques. After a 20-year career with the U.S. Marshals Service, where he served as chief deputy U.S. marshal and ERT incident commander, he accepted the invitation in 2002 to become part of the leadership standing up the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as director at Federal Protective Service for the National Capital Region. He serves on the Partnership Advisory Council at the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training (IADLEST). He also serves on the International Association of Chiefs of Police, International Managers of Police Academy and College Training. He was on faculty as an instructor at George Washington University. He is past president of the InfraGard National Capital Region Members Alliance. He has published numerous articles, academic papers, and technical counter-terrorism training programs. He has two sons on active duty in the U.S. Navy. Himself a Marine Corps veteran, he holds degrees in police science and criminal justice. He has contributed to the Domestic Preparedness Journal since 2006 and is a member of the Preparedness Leadership Council.



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