EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation — March 14, 2007

Getting Down to Business
BENS Task Force Plan for Improving Public-Private Coordination

Kiersten Todt Coon
Vice President for Policy
Ern Blackwelder
Senior Vice President, Business Force

Business Executives for National Security (BENS)
Washington, DC

Amy Sebring
EIIP Moderator

The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. A raw, unedited transcript is available from our archives. See our home page at http://www.emforum.org

[Welcome / Introduction]

Amy Sebring: Good morning/afternoon everyone. Thank you for joining us today. On behalf of Avagene and myself, welcome to the EIIP Virtual Forum! Our topic today is "Getting Down to Business: BENS Task Force Plan for Improving Public-Private Coordination"

It is my pleasure to introduce today's guests. Kiersten Todt Coon is Vice President of Policy for Business Executives for National Security (BENS) in Washington, DC. In her current position, she identifies and develops national security projects that leverage the expertise of the private sector to address public sector needs. She is responsible for BENS' work on integrating the private sector into emergency management response to disasters. Prior to working for BENS, she was a consultant for Sandia National Laboratories and worked with Sandia, Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, the Bay Area Economic Forum, the local governments of the Bay Area region (9 counties, 101 cities) and the private sector to develop a homeland security preparedness plan for the Bay Area.

We are also pleased to have Ern Blackwelder with us today. As Senior Vice President, Mr. Blackwelder oversees all BENS Business Force activities, including support for partnerships in New Jersey, Georgia, MidAmerica (based in Kansas City), California (San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles & Orange Counties), and Iowa.

Welcome to you both, and thank you for joining us today. I now turn the floor over to Kiersten to begin today's program.


Kiersten Todt Coon: Thank you Amy. I would like to start off with some background information on our organization, and our experience with our Business Force model.

BENS is a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization comprised of more than 500 business executives committed to volunteering their time and talent to improve the nation's security. BENS has a 24-year track record of applying business skills and best practices to achieve measurable, demonstrable improvements in government practices.

The BENS Business Force is an innovative model for regional public-private partnerships, designed to help close gaps in homeland security that neither government nor business can fill alone. BENS helps states and urban areas build regional partnerships and mobilize private sector support in four general categories:

• Organized Collaboration: Businesses link to state and local government emergency operations centers and information "fusion centers" to improve communication before, during and after a crisis. This collaboration helps identify threats and minimize bureaucratic roadblocks to get the right resources to the right places faster;

• Surge Capacity/Supply Chain Management: Businesses pledge their resources (warehouse or office space, trucks, equipment, skilled personnel, etc.) through regional, web-based registries that can be quickly tapped by first responders (http://www.businessresponsenetwork.org);

• Mass Vaccination/Treatment: Business Force companies contribute volunteers and skilled management to assist state and local governments in the design, testing, and execution of plans to dispense medications from the Strategic National Stockpile in the event of a pandemic or biological attack;

• Leadership and Strategic Support: Business Force partnerships offer best business practices and civic leadership from some of the nation's top executives to help government improve homeland security capabilities.

Progress To Date

BENS started Business Force partnerships in New Jersey in 2003, Georgia and MidAmerica (based in Kansas City) in 2004, and the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006. BENS now focuses on assisting states and regions in developing their own regional partnerships, including Los Angeles and Orange Counties in 2006 (Homeland Security Advisory Council), and Iowa in 2007 (Safeguard Iowa Partnership). BENS has also supported Massachusetts with the development of a business resource registry prior to the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

BENS was invited by Congressional leadership to convene the Business Response Task Force in 2006 to better define the role of business in response to catastrophic events. The Task Force report to Congress, Getting Down to Business: An Action Plan for Public-Private Disaster Response Coordination can be accessed from our website at http://www.bens.org/Getting-Down-To-Business.pdf. The White House report, Katrina: Lessons Learned, also encouraged expansion of BENS' partnership models (see http://www.whitehouse.gov/reports/katrina-lessons-learned).

Why do we need regional partnerships? Government alone cannot secure the nation. Business understands that it needs to help maintain "continuity of community" in order to ensure its own business continuity. Companies responded admirably during 9/11, Katrina and other catastrophic events, but business-government collaboration has often been chaotic, with little or no advanced planning, training or exercising.

The Business Force model helps mobilize and organize the resources and expertise of the business community in advance to improve security capability in states or regions, where it is most needed. Business and government need such a partnership to better prepare for all threats, whether a terrorist attack, flu pandemic or natural disaster.

BENS is led by retired Air Force General Chuck Boyd, formerly the Executive Director of the Hart-Rudman Commission, and Ambassador Don Hays, former Deputy High Commissioner for Bosnia. Ern Blackwelder and Lynne Kidder lead the BENS Business Force nationally, and I am leading a project with NEMA to improve integration of the private sector into the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC).

Integrating Business Into Emergency Management

As highlighted in the 2005 Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) After Action Report (AAR), 2005 disasters in the United States created the largest demand for nationwide mobilization of emergency resources in the country's history. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita generated 2,181 mission requests (97.3% of the total missions in 2005), resulting in 65,929 personnel (99.6% of the personnel assigned in 2005) deployed. These hurricanes facilitated the rapid expansion and evolution of EMAC, which has been widely recognized as one of the most successful and scalable emergency management systems in the country.

These hurricanes led to discussions between EMAC leadership, the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) Private Sector Committee and BENS (Business Executives for National Security) at the September 2005 NEMA meeting regarding the possibility of modifying and expanding EMAC to integrate business resources. Following this meeting, the EMAC and NEMA Private Sector Committees asked BENS to propose a project to explore such an expansion of EMAC; this project became known as Business EMAC, or "BEMAC," and has evolved into the BEMAC Task Force. The Business Response Task Force also recommended the integration of business into EMAC in its Getting Down to Business report to Congress.

The purpose of this BEMAC Task Force is to assess the feasibility of integrating business resources into the existing EMAC policies and procedures, thereby making private sector personnel and resources available through EMAC systems as express "agents of the state." If this integration is not possible, then alternatives, such as creating a parallel business mutual aid system to complement EMAC, will be explored. If a BEMAC system is viable, then the Task Force will recommend an implementation plan to the EMAC and Private Sector Committees, which would subsequently make recommendations to NEMA.

Current Disaster Response Environment

• Government does not have the resources or capabilities to respond to major disasters by itself.

• Private sector resources and capabilities have been significantly underutilized in major disasters, partly because the system for integrating the private sector with government first responders has been inadequate.

• EMAC is a proven system for enabling states that have been affected by a major disaster ("requesting states") to request resources and capabilities from unaffected states ("responding states") through mutual aid. The EMAC system has four basic components:

    • "Advance Teams (A-Teams)" comprised of emergency management officials from responding states go to requesting states to help their emergency management officials determine requirements and request and acquire resources and personnel from all responding states.
    • Responding states are obligated to use their best efforts to respond to requests from a requesting state. Assistance is called an "EMAC Mission."
    • Responding states are guaranteed reimbursement and liability protection by the requesting state.
    • EMAC National and Regional Coordinating Teams coordinate EMAC efforts with DHS/FEMA national and regional officials.

• While some states use private sector resources when creating an EMAC mission, many states only use government resources.

The mission of the BEMAC Task Force is to identify the most effective means for the private sector to be integrated in a state's emergency management response system. Our objective is to present an implementation plan that will be accepted by NEMA in time to be executed for the 2007 hurricane season.

This concludes our overview, and Ern and I will be happy to address your questions and comments. Ern, in particular, can address your questions about our Business Force experience. I now turn the floor back over our Moderator.

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much Kiersten. Now, to proceed to your questions and comments.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

David Graham: Would contracts be entered to secure the private resources?

Ern Blackwelder: This will be up to the state/local government and the business entity. If items are donated, this wouldn't be necessary.

Dave Duecker: There are various forms of partnerships in development across the country. Would you consider joint work within the states to push the concept from the bottom up?

Kiersten Todt Coon: Do you mean cities/metro areas within a state? If so, then we would collaborate with existing partnerships. If there were no existing partnerships, then we would encourage developing partnerships either at the state or regional level.

Dave Duecker: The efforts we have in Wisconsin are within counties and or regions. Several partnerships are forming as of right now, with statewide recognition of this initiative as well.

Debra Robinson: Why is it difficult for us (locally) to identify all the resources available to us (public or private) and actually get anywhere with it? What walls have you discovered in doing this?

Kiersten Todt Coon: It is difficult because there have not been dedicated resources or focused efforts to identify these resources in advance. Businesses often ask about liability protection, which varies by state. However, many businesses are willing to participate even though liability protection is imperfect.

Shawn Smith: Given that the private sector has a tremendous ability to supplement the needs of communities at the local level, pre and post-disaster, how is the BEMAC addressing the issue of volunteer credentialing?

Kiersten Todt Coon: Good question, Shawn. This is a question that will be addressed by the BEMAC Task Force.

Dave Duecker: So my question is how do we go about forming a partnership with you and the groups formed in the state on this effort? We're sold on partnerships and resource sharing. We're looking for consistency and standardization so we don't get miles down the road and find that our protocols won't match up with the national.

Kiersten Todt Coon: We have a white paper on the Business Force section of our website that provides advice on building new partnerships and we would be happy to talk with you further and answer your questions. [See http://www.bensbusinessforce.org/BENS%20Regional%20Partnership%20White%20Paper%2011%2006.pdf]

Greg Patin: Does BENS consider "private" to include non-profit organizations at the local level? We often have resources (goods and volunteers) available, but have difficulty being assigned missions if we are not Red Cross or Salvation Army (no slight intended to these organizations).

Kiersten Todt Coon: We have focused our efforts on the business community and we work with and collaborate with organizations like the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and Citizen Corps. The partnerships we work with often work with non-profits.

Thomas Johns: In arranging a corporate partnership, where the corporation has multi-state resources (e.g., WalMart, Home Depot), at what corporate level do you enter an agreement?

Kiersten Todt Coon: We typically engage at whatever level the corporation chooses. Most often this is at the corporate level and regional level, but this varies among businesses.

Avagene Moore: Ern (or Kiersten), I commend BENS for this effort. It is time! I suspect the support and planning done by the private sector will do as much, if not more, to achieve the US' preparedness goals as anything the government may do. My question: How does BENS interface with the Private Sector initiative within DHS / FEMA (don't recall the formal name of the office) and the national level of the Chamber of Commerce?

Kiersten Todt Coon: We work closely with the private sector office at DHS and with the US Chamber, Business Roundtable, and other national organization. We work with the US Chamber and local Chambers in each of the regions; we also keep DHS apprised of our partnerships on an ongoing basis. DHS has been very supportive of these partnerships. DHS private sector office, FEMA and relevant government entities were consulted during the development of our report Getting Down to Business. We are also in touch with congressional offices and committees.

Joe Sukaskas: Many, if not all, power companies have extensive mutual aid agreements executed in advance directly with other similar utilities - both private and public - to obtain qualified support assistance and materiel in disaster restoration efforts. How do you envision BENS functioning in that environment?

Kiersten Todt Coon: Utilities have the most sophisticated mutual aid agreement in any sector. Our efforts supplement; they do not replace these efforts.

Lori Wieber: Kiersten, are there any particular legal issues that will require legislation, such as Stafford Act amendment? Is BENS working on legislation?

Kiersten Todt Coon: In our Task Force report we do recommend that the Stafford Act be modified to enable private critical infrastructure to seek federal government support. BENS is not a lobbying organization. We do not propose legislation; we proposed general recommendations in our report.

David Graham: Given the Katrina experience, why is the Getting Down to Business report so negative on the possibility of a Disaster Law? Is this based upon Congressional feedback? As an attorney, I would think that liability concerns will severely limit the willingness of the private sector to offer aid without a Federal Good Samaritan statute that trumps State law and the possibility of plaintiff's attorneys seeking to hold companies liable.

Kiersten Todt Coon: We are optimists and believe that a Disaster Law is possible. We recognize, however, that legislation takes time. One of our recommendations is the passage of a Disaster Law, so we hope that it will occur.

Dave Duecker: If BEMAC goes national will the "Business Force" software tool roll out for national use, or will various states and regions have to develop a separate platform for participation? You'll note the difficulty with the interoperability issues. All states and regions are already implementing all sorts of different incident management and information sharing tools. Will we do this right and have a standard?

Kiersten Todt Coon: The BEMAC Task Force is focusing on the process of business integrating into EMAC. At this point, we are not addressing the software issues initially. These issues will, of course, need to be addressed at a later time once the process has been determined.

Laurel Nelson: It is encouraging to see other areas bridging the gap between private and public. Since '98 our region, King County WA (which includes my city Seattle and 38 other jurisdictions and 126 special purpose districts) began a grassroots effort to establish a collaborative, response framework pulling together public, private and nonprofit. Our "regional plan" follows the National Response Plan and has an Omnibus Legal and Financial Agreement. It's like a "mutual aid agreement." Microsoft, Bank of America, Boeing, WA Mutual, Puget Sound Energy, Olympic Pipeline, Regence BlueShield, and a number of private hospitals are several of the private partners signed on to this plan/agreement. We went out for formal adoption in January 2002 and to date there are 141 partners - public, private, and nonprofit. [ See the website at http://www.metrokc.gov/prepare/programs/regionalplan.aspx ] We continue to differentiate the Plan, train and exercise, and continue developing the relationships. In TOPOFF2 we had Bank of America (representing financial institutions).

Ern Blackwelder: Congratulations, Laurel. This looks like a terrific initiative!

Laurel Nelson: Thanks to the private partners willing to come to the table!

Amy Sebring: Kiersten, I assume that you are familiar with the NIMS Resource Typing effort, which has been focused on federal resources and first responder type resources. Have you considered working with them to develop some standardized business asset types to work within the EMAC framework?

Kiersten Todt Coon: The EMAC Committee is familiar with the resource typing efforts and will bring that knowledge to our Task Force

Dave Duecker: Do you want to give me a POC off line to coordinate with our partnerships in this state?

Ern Blackwelder: Please contact me at [email protected]

Amy Sebring: I would like to know a little more about the SNS planning and participation. Ern, have you been involved with that in the past?

Ern Blackwelder: Yes. We worked with state and local public health officials in Georgia to recruit business volunteers for a major anthrax exercise, and we are working to develop similar exercises that use business volunteers to augment public health staff

Avagene Moore: Ern, the report recommends integrating business into disaster response through an EOC position in state and local EOC's, to serve as a liaison. What do you suggest as a means of selecting one business representative to fill this position?

Ern Blackwelder: This will vary by state/city. Some may choose one representative; others may choose a few. A regional partnership can help facilitate this process and ensure broad participation across industries and including multiple competitors.

Thomas Johns: Often during a disaster, prices for goods and services rise sharply. Do the corporate partnership agreements contain any language regarding prices?

Kiersten Todt Coon: No, they do not. The Task Force report recommends that state and local governments address price gouging in times of disaster.

Laurel Nelson: Nor ours. Another comment on the SNS item; our local Public Health has been working with private partners as well (large local corporations). I believe they have established some "agreements" with those private partners for facilities, logistical support, etc., all in relation to a public health scenario, and understanding private sector has resources and facilities to assist Public Health. Additionally, almost all of our exercises in this regional have private partners at the table.

Lori Wieber: Kiersten, has BENS had a direct role in the updating/revision of the National Response Plan?

Kiersten Todt Coon: Yes we have provided input into the revision of the National Response Plan as well as into the revision of the NIMS. Our input has been consistent with the recommendations and findings in our Task Force report.

Amy Sebring: Kiersten, did you give NEMA your midyear meeting presentation for them to post with their conference documents?

Kiersten Todt Coon: The Private Sector Committee of NEMA has our presentation. We have not checked to see if it is posted.

Amy Sebring: The conference documents are not posted yet, but are expected to be available "mid March" at http://www.nemaweb.org in the Library section, so folks might want to check back there.

Amy Sebring: Ern, we did not give you much of a chance today; is there anything you would like to add in closing?

Ern Blackwelder: Thanks, Amy. Kiersten and I have been talking while typing. Thanks to you and the participants for this opportunity.

Kiersten Todt Coon: Thank you for the opportunity to participate and to respond to everyone's thoughtful questions.


Amy Sebring: Thank you very much Kiersten and Ern for an excellent job. We hope you enjoyed the experience today. Please stand by a moment while we make a couple of quick announcements.

Again, the formatted transcript will be available later today. If you are not on our mailing list and would like to get notices of future sessions and availability of transcripts, just go to our home page to Subscribe.

If your organization is interested in becoming an EIIP Partner, please go to our home page and click on "Partnership for You"

Thanks to everyone for participating today. Excellent questions and comments. We stand adjourned but before you go, please help me show our appreciation to Kiersten and Ern for a fine job.