Managing Disasters through Public-Private Partnerships
Author: Ami J. Abou-Bakr
Review by: Jesse O’Rullian
The Public and Private Value of Disaster-Oriented PPPS
“The 9/11 Commision Report warns the American people: “the lessons of 9/11 for civilians and first responder can be stated simply: in the new age of terror, they-we-are the primary targets. The losses America suffered that day demonstrated both the gravity of the terrorist threat and the commensurate need to prepare ourselves to meet it.”
Educating the community of potential threats is absolutely necessary to ensure that there is a proper and adequate response to the threats that are both naturally occurring or human induced.
“The 9/11 Commission Report says “the private sector controls 85 percent of the critical infrastructure in the nation. Indeed, unless a terrorist’s target is a military or other secure government facility, the ‘first’ responders will almost certainly be civilians.””
For 85 percent of the critical infrastructure to be held by the private sector it seems absurd to not have the private sector more integrated with the government. Not only that but for a government agency like FEMA to demand for states, counties, and cities to integrate the private sector into their response plan--it seems hypocritical for the federal government not to do the same.
Recurring Response Delays
“While the government, and particularly the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), struggled to respond, private-sector corporations were, in many cases, the first responders, delivering food, water, blankets, and other vital necessities to those stranded.”
The US Chamber of Commerce reported: “Private-sector assistance during and following the major 2005 hurricanes- Katrina, Rita and Wilma--totaled about $1.2 billion, 25 percent of that in products and services, the remainder in cash contributions...At least 254 companies made cash or in-kind contributions of $1 million or more.”
Role of Verizon during and after 9/11
“When the south tower of the WTC collapsed on 9/11, all mobile phone capabilities were lost at Ground Zero. The restoration of mobile phone communication at ground zero was urgent--first responders needed mobile phones as backup for their failing radios, mobile phones could be used by survivors trapped in the rubble to call for help, and once restored, mobile-phone tracking devices could be used by rescuers to locate survivors. The mobile-phone network--the equipment, technology, and the capability to restore communication--rested in the private sector.”(Abou-Bakr, 2013)
“Once wireless coverage was restored to Ground Zero, Verizon distributed more than five thousand cell phones to emergency workers. In addition, Verizon and other wireless providers began monitoring all cellular signals near the collapsed WTC site to locate survivors who may still have been trapped.”(Abou-Bakr, 2013)
Walmart during and after Katrina
“In the days immediately following the hurricane, there was a communication breakdown in the public sector at all levels of government, leaving the government overwhelmed. Disaster response agencies (FEMA in particular) were unprepared and slow to respond. In contrast, Walmart was prepared and rapidly reacted to the event. The ability of retailers such as Walmart to respond immediately while FEMA continued to scramble reinforced the sense that the private sector should be more formally integrated in disaster preparedness strategies because they may have an important role to play. Precisely how that role would play out, however, and whether the government would be able to use private sector capabilities to assist with the response remained to be seen. Susan Rosegrant argues,”Questions remained about whether the public sector could take full advantage of the retailer’s strengths and capabilities, and whether it was ready for Walmart and other agencies to carve out a new role for private--sector participation in a nation emergency.”(Abou-Bakr, 2013)
The book goes on to talk about how Walmart was used as a staging area for responders and how it benefited both parties. The store is protected from looters and the responders are provided with areas to sleep, eat, work, gear up, and provided with the goods necessary to carry out their mission. “As a result of Katrina, Walmart shipped 2,498 trailers of emergency merchandise, gave $3.5 million in merchandise to shelters and command posts, and customers and associates (employees) donated more than $8.5 million to the relief effort.”(Abou-Bakr, 2013)
With a response like this it makes me wonder why the government would be skeptical to engage the private sector in the relief efforts. If FEMA requires each city, county, and state to develop joint operations with the private sector in order to receive funds I think it would be a good idea for FEMA to practice what it preaches and be an example of how to integrate outside resources.
The Historical Evolution of Policy and Organizational Frameworks
PPPS started under President Clinton's administration in an attempt to nullify the terrorist threats.
-Bombing of WTC in 1993
-Federal Oklahoma City building in 1995
Led to the forming of Presidential Decision Directive 39. While it remained classified it led to the formation of a cabinet level group that assessed the vulnerability of government assets.
-Executive Order 13010 in 1996 caused for full time positions to be formed which assessed the critical infrastructure. The President's Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection.
EO13010 argues,” It is essential that the government and private sectors work together to develop a strategy for protecting (critical infrastructure) and ensuring their continued operation.”
The President’s Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection put out a report Critical Foundations, “defined critical infrastructure, differentiated vulnerabilities as either “cyber” or “physical,” and discussed at length the challenges of private-sector ownership of critical infrastructures.” The report goes on to state that “The critical infrastructures are central to our national defense and our economic power, and we must lay the foundations for their future security on a new form of operation between government and the private sector.
Will these steps work?
Political Leadership “of the US government's engagement with the threat of catastrophic terrorism between 1993 and 2006 illustrates both the foresight in identifying critical issues and the difficulty of sustaining focus and creating enduring programs, strategies and institution to face those challenges.”
“Private sector preparedness is not a luxury; it is the cost of doing business in the post-9/11 world. It is ignored at a potential cost in lives, money and national security.
The 9/11 Commission Report, 398
“With a disaster-oriented PPP, this communication becomes complicated as both the government and the private sector have legitimate and significant barriers that limit their ability--and willingness--to share information with each other.”
Granted there will be instances where security clearances will be needed but too often security clearances don’t transfer between government agencies. If the government has a hard enough time communicating with those who have the same mission and have sworn an oath--how much hard is it for the government to educate the citizens of what needs to be done. It is clear that this gap must be mended and made the focal point of efforts.
Benefits for Both Parties
World War I presented one example of of how it was beneficial for both parties to help with the war efforts. The economy at that time was experience a downturn thus allowing for the private sector to benefit as well enabling the government to excel in the war efforts.
Businesses have found that it was in their best interest to help the government during disasters. By developing these public-private partnerships it has enabled all parties to benefit but none more than the victims.
Abou-Bakr, A. (2013). Managing disasters through public-private partnerships. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.