Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator (FEMA) Craig Fugate on Nov. 14 addressed a group of business leaders and federal, state and local emergency managers to talk about the critical role that the private sector can play in helping communities rebuild their economies and recover more quickly after disasters.
During his remarks, delivered at a forum hosted by the Northwest Arkansas Community College, “Fostering Cooperation with Local, State, Regional, and Federal Public/Private Sector Initiatives,” Fugate explained that the emergency management community, at all levels, must focus on how they can support local businesses, from retailers to restaurants to banks, to reopen as quickly as possible after a disaster, so that disaster survivors can access their services and employers can keep revenue and jobs in that community.
“The private sector, from Fortune 500 companies to your local grocery store, is an essential member of the team,” said Fugate. “The faster we can help stores and businesses get back on their feet after a disaster, the more effective the rest of the team can be in focusing our resources on helping disaster survivors in areas that don’t yet have access to those goods and services. Growing strong working relationships between emergency managers and the private sector is a good business decision for everyone — it helps us better serve survivors, rebuild our communities and boost local economies.”
As Fugate explained in his address, ensuring that schools and other local services can reopen quickly is also critical to keeping jobs in a community after disasters strike. For example, in Joplin, where the local high school was destroyed by the tornado that struck in May, FEMA and other federal partners worked closely with the city, the private sector, voluntary groups and other organizations to help the school reopen on time in a temporary facility. The school opened in time for the beginning of the school year in August, with strong support from local businesses.
More and more states are beginning to create business emergency operations centers within their emergency management teams, which increases communications between the private and public sectors during emergencies and strengthens overall disaster response and recovery efforts.
Currently, more than 27 states are pursuing the development of a business emergency operations center and finding other innovative ways to support businesses in preparing for or recovering from disasters.