By Melissa Wiehenstroer, Private Sector Liaison, FEMA Region III:
Picture this: you work for a grocery store chain and you get a call from one of your suppliers. They tell you that access is restricted on a road they need to drive on to restock your stores in an area that was affected by a major storm. Do you know who you would call for help?
Even if you don’t work for a grocery store, knowing who to contact in a disaster could be crucial to the continuity of your business or for getting the information you need to make decisions. In this situation, alerting an emergency manager to the issue could get your supplier permission to reenter, not only helping your business but also the residents of the community who rely on your stores for food.
So how do you connect with emergency managers? It’s easy to start:
- Check the websites of your county and state emergency management agencies for contact information and reach out with a simple phone call or email. Increasingly, local and state emergency management agencies have dedicated liaisons to the private sector to assist businesses with their inquiries, share information, and field offers of assistance.
- Reach out to your regional FEMA office to make a contact at the federal level. FEMA has ten regional offices across the country and each office has a Private Sector Liaison. Find the geographic coverage and contact information for each FEMA regional office at https://www.fema.gov/fema-regional-contacts.
- Once you have the contacts, participate in preparedness events hosted by these agencies to learn more about how to put your new relationship to work. At FEMA Region III, we recently hosted our annual Private Sector Readiness Day at our office in Philadelphia, PA to bring together businesses and emergency managers for a free one-day event to network and collaborate. In addition to working through an emergency scenario together, we included presentations from our state partners and the Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (DHS CISA) so participants could learn more about their private sector engagement programs.
Having contacts at every level of government means that you always have someone to reach out to for support before, during and after disasters. Emergency managers are eager to hear from you too- the more we know about what your concerns and capabilities are during an incident, the better we can tailor our plans and response efforts to the needs of a community. So take this time now on blue sky days to build your contacts so you have a trusted partner to rely on when the sky turns gray.
About the Author: Melissa Wiehenstroer is the Private Sector Liaison with FEMA Region III. She can be reached at Melissa.Wiehenstroer@fema.dhs.gov.