Disaster Public-Private Partnerships: Important but Difficult

Feb 18, 2011 11:15 AM ET
Campaign: BCLCblog

Building Public-Private Partnerships: Why is it so difficult? - by Oliver David…

There are many practical, logical reasons for government, nongovernmental organizations, and the business community to cooperate on disaster activities to maximize resources and reduce losses.  This cooperation is often described as Public- Private Partnerships (PPPs).  If all three sectors believe PPPs are desirable, why is it taking so long to build a structure to institutionalize this cooperation?  

FEMA has identified Regional “private sector” specialists to build this cooperation. Recently, FEMA’s Region III staff initiated a discussion among Voluntary Organizations (VOADs), Business and governments to identify why and how to build these PPP relationships. Examples of why these relationships are important included: businesses are members of the community with resources to offer, and corporate responsibility encourages donations and participation with money, goods, and employee expertise.

Community based disaster organizations, VOADs, can be strengthened with business/industry participation.  Opportunities to cooperate include, providing subject matter expertise (food, medicine, transportation, communication…), being an advocate for VOAD and assisting them with organizational expertise or employee volunteer staff.

One often repeated admonition, but not yet a lesson, is to include the business community in project or activity development at the beginning, not after it is already underway (possibly with fatal flaws).  It is very important for community recovery planning by long term recovery groups/committees to include local business representatives. Companies and their employees can be a critical resource and expertise to speed recovery and build community resilience. 

A speaker from California’s emergency management agency at a recent PPP Conference (see my previous blog ) said that California has included utility representatives in their Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for 30 years.  He then revealed that for 30 years they had been unable to identify how to include the many skills and other business resources in their disaster programs.

If it appears desirable to have Public – Private Disaster Partnerships, why is it so difficult?

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The Business Civic Leadership Center is a 501(c)3 affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It is the business community’s voice and resource for social and philanthropic interests. The annual Global Corporate Citizenship Conference exists to promote opportunities for companies of all sizes, all types, to partner with governments and NGOs to advance human and economic progress.