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You Say Tomato, I Say Toe-mah-toe

Fri, 12/31/2010 - 7:00pm
Daniel Hahn

There’s a lot of talk about the “public” sector and “private” sector, much of it centered around the need for partnerships. And that’s good … really good. But while all that talk is aimed at bringing us closer together, sometimes it makes it seem like we’re worlds apart. What do I mean? Think about the language we use to talk about developing public/private partnerships. We say things like “reaching out” and “bridging the gap” and “over-coming objections.” And I think that tends to make us focus on our differences, rather than our similarities. So, I’d like to take this opportunity to show you how alike public sector emergency managers and private sector business continuity professionals really are.
 

There’s a hurricane approaching.

Emergency Manager: Ninety-six hours out the public information officer starts putting out media releases to warn the public (who should already be paying attention) to be prepared to activate their family disaster plans as they shelter in place or evacuate based on future conditions. Of course, we have local governmental offices preparing as well.
 
Business Continuity Professional: Ensures that department heads (who should already be paying attention) understand that the hurricane is coming and asks them (or asks the CEO to tell them) to be prepared to take appropriate action (based on your plan).
 

Now it’s official, the Category 3 hurricane is going to hit you head-on … in 36 hours.

Emergency Manager: At level-two activation (meaning some of the critical elements needed in the emergency operations center are working already). Continuing to encourage the public to be ready to take action appropriate to the circumstances. This means if they are in a category one, two, or three zone, they should evacuate.
 
Business Continuity Professional: Already have some key
people or departments taking action critical to business conti-nuity (IT back-up systems, vendor notification of alternate delivery cycles or locations, etc.). Continuing to encourage employees and skeptical/non-compliant department heads to be ready to take action appropriate to the circumstances.
 

BAM! The hurricane is here!

Emergency Manager: Listening to 911 calls from people who did not heed your warnings. Wait until winds die down so preliminary damage assessments of the community and government buildings can be conducted.
 
Business Continuity Professional: Hoping none of your employees are making 911 calls because they did not heed your warnings. Wait until winds die down so preliminary damage assessments of the facilities under your jurisdiction can be conducted.
 
How am I doing so far? Am I close? Can you see some similarities?
 

An H5N1 pandemic with a 60 percent mortality rate has people dying in droves in Southeast Asia.

Emergency Manager: Wow! Sucks to be over there. Maybe I ought to look at that plan we wrote in 2006 and almost pulled out for H1N1 but ended up not needing.
 
Business Continuity Professional: Wow! Sucks to be over there. Maybe I ought to look at that plan we wrote in 2006 and almost pulled out for H1N1 but ended up not needing.
 

People start dying in the United States.

Emergency Manager: OMG, I’m glad we updated that pandemic plan. I’d better get with the board of county commissioners and county health department to make sure we are all together on this. We need to make sure critical services will be maintained, so we had better call a meeting of our disaster managers group. We really need hospitals and EMS to work, water and sewage to flow, and lights to stay on.
 
Business Continuity Professional: OMG, I’m glad we updated that pandemic plan last month. I’d better get with the CEO and department heads to make sure we checked with all our business partners. We need to make sure critical business processes will be maintained, so we had better call a meeting of our <fill in the blank for your organization> group. We really need our supply chain to remain intact, water and sewer to flow, and lights to stay on in our facilities.
 

Things start to settle down.

Emergency Manager: Okay, government should survive; I think I will check on the local businesses now. (I bet that county attorney never makes fun of my drills again!). I wonder if we can help any businesses stay open; we need them open to make the economy continue to work and give a semblance of normalcy to the community.
 
Business Continuity Professional: Okay, I think the company will remain solvent (I hope the VP who disagreed with me last year on the need for BC gets fired). I should check with local EM to see what they are doing that might help us, and if we have anything they can use. If we help them, it could boost our reputation in the community.
 

In the end…

I know I missed the mark on a few of these examples, but you get the point and I only have a page and a half! But if you can see past what I missed with my broad generalizations, you’ll also see how alike we are. CI

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