Community Resilience: Establish the Public-Private Parternship

We’ve been talking a lot about community resilience in the past weeks. Resilience, or a community’s collective ability to respond to and grow from a disaster scenario, is intuitively related to the relationship between public and private organizations. The public-private-partnership has been largely overlooked by incident commanders, emergency managers, and property custodians. To this end preparedness is a concept largely created by federally funded, public organizations. Continuously, the extent to which the private sector has been involved in disaster preparedness, and consequently community resilience, has largely been determined and dictated by government organizations.

The public sector must reverse the trend of placing demands on the private sector, and instead, transition into a more collaborative relationship. Rather than seeking ways for the private sector to fill gaps in public preparedness, government should instead work with companies and local businesses to determine their needs for disaster planning and recovery. Make no mistake: the private sector is vital in the preparation for and recovery from any disaster scenario. At their core, the private sector represents the immediate interests of the community. As such they serve both as social barometers during a disaster, assessing the community’s morale when dealing with a disaster, and also as the community’s backbone, providing vital resources in difficult times.

There are instances, such as with Hurricanes Wilma, Katrina, and Rita, in which the Government has prevented or delayed the private sector’s operational return, consequently impeding the community’s recovery.  As FEMA administrator Craig Furgate mentioned during his keynote address at IDCE, Government-enforced rules, like curfews, can prevent the private sector from providing for its community. This illustrates how the public sector should work with, not against, the private sector in effort to help local businesses reopen after a disaster. Everyone benefits from this cooperation; the community gains access to vital supplies, the private sector jump-starts economic recovery, and emergency managers can focus on more pressing recovery issues.

Accordingly, preparedness must include the private sector. The concept of community resilience implies the whole community, not simply the first responders and emergency managers responsible for tactical response.

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