On Monday, 15 November 2010, DomesticPreparedness.com hosted its fourth DomPrep Executive Briefing of the year. The purpose of the briefing was to discuss the Department of Homeland Security’s preparations for a voluntary disaster-preparedness certification for private-sector entities, otherwise known as PS-Prep (established by Public Law 110-53). It should be no surprise that a private-sector preparedness certification developed by the public sector would raise a number of questions. DomPrep’s intention in bringing members of the private sector and members of the public sector together in one forum was to make it possible for questions to be addressed from both points of view at the same time. As an added benefit, various related topics for future discussions also could be initiated.
Albert Romano, Senior Vice President of Homeland Security for Michael Baker Jr. Inc. – and Chairman of TISP (The Infrastructure Security Partnership) – started the presentations with an incisive summary of the results developed, and questions raised, from a recent DomPrep survey titled “PS-Prep – Is It Relevant?” The key finding emerging from the survey, regrettably, was that most of those responding to the questions asked are not as knowledgeable about the PS-Prep program as they would like to be.
Alan Berman, DRI International Executive Director, presented another cogent point of view by discussing what seems to be a general lack of understanding about the standards used in developing the PS-Prep program. Alan’s extensive knowledge and decision-making expertise were developed during his many years of experience as a member of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the American Society for Industrial Security’s International Business Continuity Planning (ASIS BCP) panel, and the American National Standards Institute–American National Accreditation Board (ANSI-ANAB). He also served, not incidentally, as co-chair for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation committee to create the new standard established for the U.S. Private Sector Preparedness Act (PL 110-53).
Donald Schmidt – CEO of Preparedness LLC, chair of the National Fire Protection Association’s Technical Committee, and a member of the American National Accreditation Board’s Committee of Experts – rounded out the first group of presentations by reminding attendees that the PS-Prep goals are not limited to protecting businesses and ensuring their continuity of operations, but are also focused on an even higher priority: saving lives.
After a short networking break, Dennis Schrader, President of DRS International LLC and former Deputy Administrator of FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), started the second session with an illuminating discussion of Resiliency & Continuity of Operations Planning (COOP). During his presentation, Dennis cited Steven Grainer’s article – “NIMS-ICS & the Private Sector – Good Fit, or a Stretch?” – which focuses on several practical reasons why the private sector and government agencies must be more closely integrated for emergency planning purposes.
Marko Bourne, a Booz Allen Hamilton Principal, the concluding speaker, strongly supported Schrader’s case for improved public-private cooperation in preparedness and resiliency planning. As FEMA’s former Director of Policy and Program Analysis, Marko was able to share his personal experiences in integrating the DHS Preparedness Directorate into what many call “the new FEMA.” He also emphasized the growing importance of the PS-Prep program – while at the same time acknowledging the numerous difficulties involved in reaching a working consensus between public- and private-sector agencies and organizations of any type.
The question-and-answer segments of the program that followed both sets of presentations gave members of the audience an opportunity to express their own views – and to ask several relevant questions. Tracy Hannah, Deputy Director of DHS, and Michael Gresalfi, Senior Advisor for FEMA’s CBRNE Plans and Programs Division, led the discussion from the public-sector side. James Madison University’s George Baker and Ed Tobias from the Associated Press were among the private-sector attendees who questioned the benefits of giving PS-Prep priority over company resiliency plans that are currently in place.
Perhaps the most important lesson learned from Monday morning’s PS-Prep briefing is that there is still so much more that could and should be discussed – publicly, and in depth – on this important program. In the months and years that have passed since the 911 Commission presented its original findings, numerous responders, receivers, and emergency planners have been working hard, and diligently, to collaborate and communicate – with one another, and with the American people. However, it is increasingly clear that much more work still must be done to get the private sector to understand “the larger picture” when it comes to being “prepared” (however that sometimes nebulous term is defined). It also is now abundantly clear that a lack of preparedness in the private sector could lead to major, and adverse, ramifications in the public sector.
Because of the importance of this topic, DomPrep plans to commission additional articles, and to host additional presentations, next year on a broad range of subjects related to private- and public-sector cooperation. There seems to be general agreement that “being prepared” is and must be a group effort – and, therefore, the current gaps between the public and private sectors, and between large and small agencies and organizations, must be bridged quickly, effectively, and as a matter of the highest national priority. This Monday’s briefing was a good start – but only a start, so let’s keep the discussion going.
At this point it might be well to remember that, as Dr. George Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association, commented in 2007, “Preparedness is a process and not a point in time.”
Your own personal comments, opinions, andeas are hereby strongly encouraged. Thanks for listening.