If you are involved in emergency management, it is more apparent than ever that your state, local, tribal or territorial government cannot go it alone. And so you must look to other, external resources for assistance in preparing for, responding to, and recovering from disasters. Likely topping the list for a partner in preparedness is the private sector, which FEMA considers a critical part of any jurisdiction. 

By definition, a public-private partnership, or P3, for emergency management is “any type of informal or formal cooperative arrangement between two or more organizations of private industry and the public sector for their mutual benefit that is designed to ensure the life safety, economic security, and resilience of jurisdictions.”

According to the National Incident Management System (NIMS), 2017, “The private sector plays a vital role in emergency management and incident response and should be incorporated into all aspects of NIMS.” This includes, but is certainly not limited to utilities, industries, corporations, businesses, and professional and trade associations. 

In reaching out to these entities, you will probably discover one of two things. No real relationship exists between your jurisdiction and the organization(s) or there is an existing public-private partnership that is not being leveraged to its full potential. Regardless of your situation, here are a few recommendations from FEMA to help you establish a P3 or build upon one. 

  1. Promote why, what, and how to build relationships, communicate and share information between private sector and state, local, tribal and territorial (SLTT) public sector emergency management partners; 
  2. Engage P3s in resilience-building and response-oriented actions based on community lifelines, supply chains, and related economic activity;
  3. Build resilience by integrating the private sector into mitigation planning and actions;
  4. Involve local businesses in emergency operations planning and response; and
  5. Integrate disaster recovery planning with economic development.

Granted, P3s can be somewhat of a challenge to get, much less keep, off the ground, but they can prove highly beneficial in the event of a disaster. Just ask the jurisdictions that partnered with the private sector in 2020 to get through the COVID-19 pandemic, a historic Atlantic hurricane season, and catastrophic floods and fires. They know without a doubt that there really is strength in numbers.