Disasters and catastrophes over recent years have highlighted the need for improved coordination between the public and private sectors with the understanding that while the public sector plays a key leadership and coordination role during emergencies and disasters, it is really the private sector that maintains the underlying tools and resources needed for long term successful community resiliency.
At the federal level, FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Infrastructure Protection set policy to direct federal partners to support this interaction through various policies like the National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP) and its supporting Sector Specific Plans (SSPs).
Last year, FEMA also released PPD 8, “Whole Community Resiliency,” that highlighted similar approaches and strategies for improved national resiliency through public private partnerships that begin at the local and state levels to ensure a bottom up approach to implementation. Most recently, the White House released PPD 21, “Critical Infrastructure Security and Resiliency,” which further highlighted the need for improved coordination with the private sector.
Both policies elevate and distinguish the importance that only when both public and private sector resources work together can they maintain and provide many of the underlying tools and resources needed for successful whole community resiliency.
The question remains though: what exactly is the most efficient and effective way for the private sector to “plug into” government emergency management and homeland security efforts, not just during response, but through all five mission areas: prevention, protection, response, recovery and mitigation? It’s a question that’s been echoed consistently by our private sector partners.
This document is a concept for the framework of the integration of the “whole community” of emergency management stakeholders through the streamlining of established relationships with private sector and community stakeholders and government emergency response structures by leveraging existing emergency support function, infrastructure protection and supply chain management constructs at the federal, state and local levels. This concept for integration will provide for more efficient and timely responses based on improved information sharing prior to and during events as well as maintain the incentive for continuous collaboration between all stakeholders in the other four mission areas during steady state efforts.
Concept of operations
Within every state exists what is known as a Multi Agency Coordination Center (MACC) or State Emergency Operations Center (EOC) whereby coordination occurs in both steady state and response environments between localities, state and federal agencies (through Emergency Support Functions, or ESFs) and the private sector. Within the MACC construct, and in compliance with the National Response Framework, exists ESFs that are essentially planning and response teams comprised of state and federal agency subject matter experts in their fields whose agencies have routine interaction with their individual private sector stakeholders.
ESF 11 (Agriculture and Natural Resources), ESF 8 (Health and Medical), ESF 1 Transportation), ESF 2 (Communications) — these agencies also have detailed data sets of information pertaining to these private sector stakeholders to include, but not limited to, hospitals, grocery stores, water treatment systems, gas stations, etc.
In 2011, the Commonwealth of Virginia piloted an initiative known as the Private Sector Liaison Program in which a position was created to do exactly what the name of the program implies, create a position within the emergency operations construct specifically for purposes of acting as a liaison to the private sector. This provides continuous contact with the private sector during responses as well as prior to responses to support planning, training and exercises with the private sector in steady state.
Because this position was created Virginia found itself much more prepared to address private sector issues during response because relationships had previously been established and processes for communication and information sharing were up and running, which was one of the primary complaints the private sector had previously expressed was that they did not want to “shop around” for various points of contact to receive information from the government regarding information that was pertinent to response efforts.
This enabled Virginia to both reach out to its private sector partners ahead of approaching potential threats such as hurricanes, tornadoes, winter storms, etc., as well as stay in touch with private sector partners during response efforts to assist in providing operational information such as road closures, power outage information, tidal inundation information, and many more essential elements of information that are useful to the private sector, as they, themselves, are also responding to incidents. Virginia’s program is now promoted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a “Best Practices” example throughout the nation.
Eventually, the best practices of the program trickled down through the ESFs, and many ESFs began utilizing critical infrastructure and key resource lists. Fortunately, through involvement with the National Critical Infrastructure Prioritization Program (NCIPP) “Data Call,” these lists had previously been constructed to feed into the state’s overall Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources Support (CIKR) lists (national, state, regional and local level CIKR) in coordination with the state Homeland Security Advisor’s Office and the Department of Homeland Security as a part of their duties as Sector Specific Agencies (in many cases ESF primary agencies are synonymous with the SSAs) within the Virginia Critical Infrastructure Protection and Resiliency Strategic Plan (VCIPRSP).
Having these lists of CIKR onhand along with up to date points of contact at these assets enabled the ESFs to reach out to their private sector counterparts in the various sectors to include but not limited to, health and medical sector (hospitals, nursing homes, pharmacies, etc), food and agriculture sector (Southern States, Farm Bureau, Virginia Poultry Federation, etc.), and many more, again, ahead of potential response efforts. This two way dialogue between industry and the emergency management community ahead of the event enabled everyone to establish a baseline of expectations for the event as well as make known potential barrier to successful response or supply chain integrity (such as the closing of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel at a certain time due to projected winds in excess of 40mph).
It is not hard to imagine, and it is important to stress, that this type of stakeholder to stakeholder collaboration could also improve efficiencies not only in response but through all five mission areas of prevention, protection, response, recovery and mitigation because it provides an effective mechanism for the private sector to plug into state emergency management and homeland security efforts with government counterparts that can truly “speak the language” of their respective sectors.
During responses, the Private Sector Liaison receives the initial call from the private sector and when appropriate, triages that call to the appropriate ESF to enable direct contact with the individuals who are better equipped to understand the nuances of that particular private sector partner as well as their potential information sharing needs. This enables the private sector to make more informed decisions in terms of their own responses.
In many cases this can mitigate against potential supply chain breakdown issues which are widely known to help improve the community’s overall resiliency to an event. This can happen in the following ways both in steady state and response efforts through the five mission areas:
- Anticipate potential needs of each sector prior to events and develop necessary procedures to address those needs in collaboration with the private sector prior to events;
- Development of processes and trusted relationships that support Suspicious Activity Reporting partnerships with private sector and state fusion centers;
- Utilize trusted relationships to share pertinent, timely and actionable threat information with appropriate private sector partners
- Maintaining list of CIKR by sector that are cross walked to appropriate ESFs;
- CIKR should be prioritized and supply chains mapped out to include identification of potential single nodes of failure;
- Processes for outreach to CIKR owners and operators prior to events and coordination of site assessment processes in collaboration with DHS, local law enforcement, fire and EMS;
- Processes for having private sector join state emergency response teams, to include credentialing, could also be established for lifeline sector CIKR; and
- Options for formalization of process (having key private sector partners trained at the same level as state level emergency response team members)
- Ability to coordinate and effectively utilize private sector resources through ESF 7 — Logistics, when appropriate, to streamline and bolster response efforts;
- Provide private sector information on how to get their services and products to those who need it most during recovery (market value proposition). Enabling the private sector to provide emergency services that are needed during disasters (bottled water, food, supplies, generators, etc.);
- Maintaining contact with industry during and following events and communicating general sector status and needs to emergency management;
- Contributing to communication and information sharing efforts during incidents;
- Assist with supply chain management efforts by providing timely and actionable information relevant to the response to private sector partners;
- ESFs are best positioned to assist with rapid restoration of CIKR within MACCs by:
- Focus on areas where significant infrastructures exist without power which will signal that area as a priority for power and fuel restoration;
- Enable processes for the private sector to pull information from one team of government contacts (ESFs) (prevents private sector from having to “shop” around various government entities at various levels of government for information they need before, during and after responses); and
- Options for locating scarce resources needed to keep CIKR online to prevent supply chain failures during emergencies (supply chain failures can quickly turn emergencies into disasters and catastrophes)
- Assist the private sector in overall recovery efforts to help ensure the private sector’s ability to quickly recover from the event in order to reduce negative economic impacts and cascading effects across communities, states, and the nation;
- Work with private sector to assist with navigating the FEMA public assistance process as well as other funding sources (volunteers and donations) that may be available during recovery; and
- Assist the private sector in collaborating with their respective community leadership post disaster to develop strategies to build back stronger and more resilient
- Activities in collaboration with the private sector which highlight the need for risk reduction efforts through individual and private sector and community preparedness;
- Activities within government and the private sector which promote effective organization ased continuity planning in addition to employee, family and personal preparedness;
- Work with private sector to identify vulnerabilities and apply risk reduction measures;
- Work with private sector to map out and understand supply chains and their points of failure prior to incidents; and
- Promote a culture of resiliency through outreach on the value proposition for informed and continuous risk reduction within communities
Megan P. Samford was first appointed by Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine as a Special Assistant for Interoperable Communications to work within Virginia’s State Homeland Security Advisor’s Office. In January 2010, she was reappointed by and promoted by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell to serve as Virginia’s Critical Infrastructure Coordinator, where she worked on a team that developed and implemented the Virginia Critical Infrastructure Protection and Resiliency Strategic Plan (VCIPRSP). During that time, she also served as Virginia’s representative on various multi-state and national critical infrastructure protection work groups.
Most recently, Samford joined the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to serve as their Emergency Services Manager, lead for Emergency Support Function 11-Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Sector lead for the Food and Agriculture sector in Virginia. In this role, she actively participates on the DHS Food and Agriculture Government Coordinating Council and is a member of its Criticality Working Group that is assessing methodologies for identifying and prioritizing the most critical of Food and Agriculture assets across the nation.
Samford is also president of the FBI InfraGard Richmond Members Alliance and a member of the board of directors for the Security Analysis and Risk Management Association (SARMA). She is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and has a Master of Arts Degree in Public Administration and a dual Bachelor of Arts degree in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness and Political Science.