“VDEM’s Private Sector Liaison serves as a vital link between the private sector and the Commonwealth’s emergency management community, including members of the Virginia Emergency Response Team (VERT) and the applicable Emergency Support Functions (ESFs).”
The Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s (VDEM) Private Sector Liaison Program leads the effort in building cross-sector relationships with various Virginia private sector partners. These relationships are based on mutual support and situational awareness facilitated through information sharing.
Background and Description
Research and experience have shown that incorporating a diverse sample of private sector partners – representing various Critical Infrastructure and Key Resource sectors – into Virginia’s emergency response framework can yield advantageous benefits to both the State and private industry. In 2010, VDEM began researching a Private Sector Liaison Program. Discussions occurred with local officials, catastrophic planning groups, established private sector partners, and emergency management professionals from other states. In particular, the establishment of “pre-event” partnerships between the public and private sectors was identified as a high priority area of focus within the planning stages of the program.
Numerous grant related-projects (RCPT Region III, RCPT Hampton Roads, and UASI Programs) have requested and referenced background on the Commonwealth of Virginia’s integration of private partners, including guidance documents and procedures explaining VDEM’s implementation of a Private Sector Liaison Program.
Several years later, compiled feedback from Virginia partners has indicated the need for yet another paradigm shift. Departing from the traditional style of private-public partnerships, the Virginia Private Sector Liaison Program has grown from providing strictly informational support to a more dynamic model. Now, both new and existing partners may choose from two (2) partnership options:
- Information Sharing Agreement – a flexible arrangement in which private partners can engage in situational awareness through data exchange before, during, and after disasters or major events. The terms of this partnership are outlined within a Statement of Intent, signed by an authorizing agent of the respective private businesses and the State Coordinator of Emergency Management
- Mutual Support Agreement – a formalized partnership in which both VDEM and the respective private partners outline available capabilities that may be leveraged by either party before, during, and after disasters or major events. The terms of this partnership are outlined within a Memorandum of Understanding, signed by an authorizing agent of the respective private businesses and the State Coordinator of Emergency Management
Regardless of which approach a partner chooses, the Commonwealth of Virginia takes great pride in providing equal opportunity to all private businesses and encourages experimental agreements that blend or even exceed beyond the aforementioned options. In this, the Private Sector Liaison Program has taken great precaution to prevent competitive advantage amongst partners, through involvement with the state. Furthermore, VDEM and the VERT do not solicit donations from their partners through the Private Sector Liaison, nor are any contracts initiated that bind or otherwise financially obligate a partner to the terms of their agreements with Virginia. For more information, please check out the Private Sector Liaison Program Guide designed for prospective partners.
Goals and Objectives
The overarching objective of the program is to engage private sector partners within the Commonwealth of Virginia so as to bolster awareness, as well as response and recovery capabilities. The Commonwealth of Virginia understands that each partnership is valuable and that representatives from both private and public sectors make up the communities in which they live and serve.
Equally as important is the need for the fostering of partnerships at the county/ city/ town level. In Virginia, the mindset is that all events are local, and therefore municipal emergency managers are highly encouraged to bring businesses within their respective jurisdictions to the table. Many have taken it upon themselves to do so already, resulting in the continuity and protection of vital areas of Critical Infrastructure and private industry. For those who seek assistance in this process, the Virginia Private Sector Liaison Program can provide training and coordination designed to network local emergency management personnel with their business communities.
Finally, Virginia recognizes its strategic position as a state actor within the emergency management activities of FEMA Region III. In light of this, the Private Sector Liaison works with several interstate and regional organizations, associations, etc. to coordinate fleet movement and supply chain efforts as private motor carriers, trucks, and utility vehicles pass through the State.
VDEM’s Private Sector Liaison Program utilizes a variety of tools and resources, including data provided across all seventeen (17) Virginia ESFs, weather models provided by National Weather Service offices, deliverables and materials through the state’s Ready Virginia campaign, and most importantly, non-proprietary feedback from the private sector itself.
Training and Exercises
The need for the private sector community to know and understand how disasters – natural and manmade – are managed and responded to is a critical element in building cross-sector resiliency throughout the Commonwealth. VDEM opens up select trainings to its partners, including Logistics 101(Fundamentals) and VEOC 101 (Awareness and Operations). Further trainings tailored specifically for Virginia private industry are currently in development. The Private Sector Liaison Program also offers on-site support to partners at their own trainings/ exercises, so that stakeholders can play out the parameters of existing partnerships before times of crisis actually occur.
Information produced by the Private Sector Liaison Program ensures data flow and situational awareness through several mediums, guaranteeing both redundancy and transparency:
- Situation reports
- Physical deliverables
- E-Mail alerts
- Single point-of-contact through the Private Sector Liaison; in-person or by phone
As emergency management communities seek out new and innovative ways by which disasters can be mitigated, prepared for, responded to, and recovered from, Virginia seeks to be at the forefront of these efforts. Through the Private Sector Liaison Program at VDEM, local, cross-sector, and regional partnerships will thrive thus creating an absolutely essential environment for success.
Private Sector Liaison
Virginia Department of Emergency Management