The All-County Disaster Preparedness Team

Article excerpt

When disaster strikes, nothing is guaranteed--not water, food, electricity, mobile networks, construction materials or even gasoline. As Hurricanes Wilma, Charley, Jeanne, Frances and, of course, Katrina (to name just a few) have pummeled Florida and the Gulf Coast over the past two years, any sense of security for area businesses quickly eroded.

So instead of relying solely upon its own resources to manage a disaster's impact, NCCI Holdings of Boca Raton, Florida reached out to its corporate neighbor, Office Depot, whose Delray Beach headquarters are literally just down the street. NCCI's emergency preparedness team worked with Office Depot's business continuity managers to detail how to share resources (suppliers, offices, transportation, food service and more), and how to help their respective employees prepare, cope with and recover from major service interruptions.

"Our emergency preparedness resources are geared toward safe-guarding our servers, recovery of computer services and the quick return to work by employees," says NCCI President and CEO Steve Klingel. "Office Depot's business model is different in that they have the capability of large-scale material distribution through a national network of stores. Our common denominator, of course, is our concern for our people and getting them safely back to work as efficiently as possible."

Connecting with the County

What began as a partnership between two large, local employers morphed into a relationship with the county. And before long, two more major corporations signed on.

According to Sheridan Truesdale, senior mitigation planner for Palm Beach County's Division of Emergency Management, the time had come for businesses to be more involved with emergency response. He just needed someone to take the lead.

In 2005, Truesdale met Tom Serio, director of global business continuity management for Office Depot, who was already working on a plan to share resources with NCCI risk manager, Kathie Kearney. Recognizing the county's desire to add the missing business component, Serio and Kearney created the Business & Industry public-private partnership executive committee, which officially became part of Palm Beach County's Emergency Management System.

This committee serves as an emergency support function and is part of the vast network of organizations dedicated to preparedness and recovery before, during and after disasters. The group is privy to first-hand information and directives from the county's Emergency Operations Center, such as school closings, emergency weather reports, public transportation alerts and shelter openings. The companies disseminate this information via calling trees, mass e-mail and meetings. The plan goes into effect the minute the areas' Emergency Operations Center is in activation mode.

Providing Services Few Others Can

In addition to Palm Beach County, Office Depot and NCCI, the Business & Industry committee also includes IBM and BlueGreen Corporation (both in Boca Raton), Tropical Shipping (in nearby Riviera Beach), and representatives from business development agencies. For some companies, being a part of the county system means better access and communication of programs already tested during previous hurricane seasons. …

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