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If you work in government emergency management then you know that there is never enough. Never enough funding, never enough personnel, never enough resources, never enough time. No matter what we are dealing with, it would be a lot easier if we had more available to us. This isn’t a secret either. However, prioritizing resources to events that are unpredictable or unlikely is never going to be an easy sell. So that’s where we have to get creative, and that creativity should start with your private sector partners.
Throughout your jurisdiction, be it a small rural county, a sprawling metropolis, or an entire state, you have multiple partners in the private sector that have resources that can assist you in your mission. These resources can include trained personnel, heavy equipment, facilities for training, sheltering, and staging, or maybe they have the funding available to help you with a project. The real question is whether or not you have developed that relationship to where those private sector organizations are willing partners.
Most emergency management professionals are engaged with their Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) in some capacity. If you’re not, then I can tell you that is going to be Step #1. The LEPC is a major key to having active partnerships that benefit everyone. Be it training, planning, or cooperative projects, there are no shortage of opportunities available to a well-managed LEPC.
Outreach to the private sector shouldn’t be limited to just your LEPC though. That same philosophy of cooperation should be part of your actual emergency operations. During a major disaster or emergency engaging your business community can help you find resources that are more readily available than if you tried to request mutual aid. This is where your local economic development office can be involved as well.
This is the path we have taken in Berkeley County. When I first took over as director, there wasn’t much in the way of a public-private partnership regarding emergency management. This was despite the fact the community had endured large disaster events several years in a row. It was a clear first step that had to be addressed.
Now we provide regular training and planning services to our private sector partners. Our LEPC sees strong attendance at every meeting, and our partners are looking for ways to support our mission. That collaboration has spread to other public agencies as well, as they use the LEPC to work on their own partnerships and projects. Through our efforts we have built strong relationships that combine trust and need.
Once you have built those relationships, you can put your partnerships to work. Hazard mitigation projects, training programs, and community outreach will become easier to develop through working with your private sector partners. This will further invest those organizations into your community, which builds a stronger framework for you to continue building on. Emergency management can be afterthought, only to be brought up when disaster strikes, or it can be a key component of your government’s public-private relationships. It is up to you as emergency management professionals to take those necessary steps though. There won’t be anyone waiting around to do it for you.