Posted by: Dan Stoneking, Director, Private Sector Division
Washington, DC, August 24, 2011 -- Personnel from FEMA and other federal agencies work side-by-side in FEMA's National Response Coordination Center, helping manage preparations for Hurricane Irene. When the response coordination center is activated, a private sector representative works alongside the emergency management team to ensure close coordination.
Throughout the past week, I’ve been encouraged – yet again – by the increasing collaboration between the private sector and the emergency management community. As the government at all levels prepared for an impending hurricane aimed at the entire East Coast, the private sector has been preparing right alongside us to help minimize possible impacts and line up coordinated response and recovery efforts.
Starting back on Monday, August 22, retailers began providing the emergency management community with operational updates and important information regarding what preparations were being made for Hurricane Irene. These partners included the likes of Target, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowes, Macy’s, Sears, Best Buy, Walgreens, Safeway, Wegmans, and Waffle House among others. At the same time we were distributing regular private sector news releases and updates to over 25,000 businesses in order to provide them with details which could help them organize their preparations. The teamwork began early and is still going strong!
When evacuations began in the outer banks of North Carolina, our partners sought more information to help inform their plans. Our private sector representative in the National Response Coordination Center (currently Bill Shealy of Verizon) started working 12-hour shifts with others in our National Response Coordination Center, to handle inquiries and share information as it was available.
In return, the private sector provided FEMA with an abundance of valuable situational awareness reports that included information such as where emergency supplies where being moved and which retail stores could be affected by the storm. This information was vital to helping federal, state, tribal and local officials prepare for the coming storm.
Private sector partners will also be playing an important role in the coming weeks, as we work with them on the best ways to support the state, local and tribal recovery efforts. Just a few examples that worked well after this spring’s tornados include in-hotel welcome channel video and digital outdoor advertising.
What it all comes down to is teamwork. Everyone has a role to play in disaster preparedness, response and recovery. We’re not out of the woods yet - in fact, in many areas experiencing inland flooding, we are still in response and life-saving mode. But with the continued support and collaboration of the entire team, we will work tirelessly to support disaster survivors and the affected communities.