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Dialogue between public, private and nonprofit sectors can ensure swift deployment of disaster recovery resources

Charlotte Franklin

When a disaster strikes, the pre-existing relationships between government and the private sector must be leveraged to launch an effective response and recovery effort. The objective for community crisis response is to support and bolster the capabilities that function effectively in the normal state to function with the same level of success in the emergency state.

The private sector can utilize situational awareness information provided by the public sector to maintain continuity of operations. The public sector can depend upon the private sector supply chain to ensure that goods are delivered in a time of need.

Handling any crisis, of course, starts with communication and coordination. In Arlington County, VA, for example, we view disaster recovery more as a supply chain issue. It requires a new kind of conversation about how we can clear the way for the delivery of emergency resources to those that need them most.

This new supply chain-centered focus and public/private dialogue answers the question, "What happens when an incident occurs and the normal supply chain mode shifts into emergency mode?" The types of supplies needed change depending on the nature and scale of the disaster, but delivery and distribution challenges and processes are the same. 

Getting the conversation started 

In Northern Virginia, for example, some fundamental steps have already been taken to get this dialogue going.

In March 2011, the Northern Virginia Emergency Response System (NVERS) convened a Recovery Resource Forum which brought together local emergency managers and potential providers of essential disaster recovery resources from the private and nonprofit sectors. The purpose of this forum was to discuss best practices and major challenges in disaster recovery. The forum also exchanged ideas openly on how government can support immediate post-event recovery efforts by collaborating with grocers, medical suppliers, animal retailers and shelters, pharmacies, rail transporters and health care providers. These conversations helped us identify five major findings published in the report titled “Northern Virginia Recovery Resource Initiative Recommendation Report”:

  1. Coordinating with Local Government: Coordinated planning and information sharing between local government and the private sector is essential to efficient recovery resource management.


  1. Guaranteeing Availability of Essential Resources: Pre-disaster planning and identification of resource needs are especially critical to the food, health care and animal care resource categories.


  1. Ensuring Continuity of Supply: Local governments can help bring local businesses and nonprofits together to designate predetermined suppliers, transporters and distributors of essential goods and services.


  1. Incident Communication to the Public and Resource Providers: Communities need an information management system for acquisition, storage and distribution of recovery resources.


  1. Delivering Essential Resources to Points-of-Need: Local emergency managers can practice pre-disaster outreach with small nonprofits and community organizations to establish points of contact and post-incident communications procedures.

Next steps in building the recovery supply chain: A new local dialogue

To address the challenges identified above, Arlington County will host the Local Capacity Supply Chain in a Crisis Exercise Summit on January 30 and 31, 2013. This two-day summit, funded by the DHS Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program (RCPGP), will unite grocers, retailers, financial institutions, medical suppliers, supply chain experts and critical infrastructure stewards (telecom, energy and transportation) in a conversation to find remedies to recurring and unresolved recovery resource issues. Recommendations from the summit will be made available to communities nationwide. For more information, email Charlotte Franklin at [email protected]

By fostering this new supply chain perspective and constructive dialogue, we can all support our disaster recovery plans to help the right resources get to the right people at the right time.

Charlotte Franklin is with Arlington County, VA.'s Office of Emergency Management. She can be reached at:

[email protected]a.us


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