Two counties in the Panhandle of Florida recently came together to promote business continuity initiatives to all the small businesses in a two county area. The brain child of the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, this initiative, which included public and private sector partners from Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties, have entered a cooperative arrangement to the benefit of small businesses. So how do you organize a two county initiative across jurisdictional boundaries without upsetting anyone’s apple cart? You check your egos at the door.
There were some speed bumps in the development of this initiative. The Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce in Escambia asked for all the local chambers, five in one county and four in the other, to share in a data base all members contact information. The intent was to allow both counties access to all businesses in either county in the event of a disaster. This idea was not well received so it was proposed that the COAD (Community Organizations Active in Disasters) in each county be the proponent agency working through whatever mechanism they already had in place for dealing with business continuity issues. In Escambia County BRACE (Be Ready Alliance Coordinating for Emergencies) has a preparedness committee. In Santa Rosa County SAFER (Support Alliance For Emergency Readiness) has a business continuity committee. Both of these committees have the chambers of commerce in their respective counties as members, thus, each county has an overarching organizational structure to work within.
In Florida, Emergency Support Function (ESF) 18 includes business and industry. Florida modified the 15 federal ESFs and even added a few. Many counties followed suite to include Escambia and Santa Rosa. In the diagram the dotted lines from the committees to the ESFs indicate a route of communication during EOC activations. There is also a dotted line signifying that communication between ESFs in each county takes place in order to support the needs of businesses in the region during or immediately after a disaster.
The mission and vision of the EscaRosa BCI are:
- Mission -- to develop active partnerships within the Escambia and Santa Rosa County business community for enhancing disaster resiliency and continuity.
- Vision -- the most sustainable, disaster-resilient business community in America.
This concept is replicable in any jurisdiction, or any groups of jurisdictions that want to work together for the common good. Be a champion for preparedness in your community and try to organize a group where you live, or join with an existing group. The rewards are great -- just check your ego at the door.