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Emergency Management 16


Recommendation

The Comptroller’s office will assist employers by placing information about emergency management planning and implementation along with appropriate links to organizations that can provide technical and financial support on its Window on State Government Web site.


Summary

Employers across the nation are facing challenges assisting employees, reestablishing business operations and managing day-to-day workplace issues following natural and man-made disasters. These difficulties have been particularly evident following the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. Businesses are grappling with such difficult issues as crisis planning and management, contingency planning for technology and key business operations and strategies for providing emotional support for employees.[1]

The Comptroller’s Window on State Government Web site should include basic emergency planning principles and resource links to assist Texas businesses with all phases of disaster mitigation, planning and recovery. The Web site should link to available resources through federal and state agencies, business associations and universities. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Governor’s Division of Emergency Management, at a minimum, should help provide content support.


Findings

The best way to limit the impact of a disaster is to have a plan in place for how to deal with one. With a relatively small investment of time and money now, businesses could prevent severe damage and disruption of life and business in the event of a natural or man-made disaster, such as floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, oil spills, civil unrest and terrorism. Businesses can protect themselves and their employees by asking themselves: How would a disaster affect my business and my family? Would we survive if the business were closed down for weeks, months or perhaps my entire revenue season? What can I do to make sure we survive?[2]

A Business Disaster Plan addresses facilities (buildings and equipment); operations; critical information and communications; and insurance. During a disaster, it is critical to have a good business plan and to execute it properly. Taking care of employees is the first order of business. If they are left homeless or their home is damaged, or they can’t find loved ones, they can’t come to work. Once contingency operation plans are in place and employees are helped, then the business can turn its attention to the community – to help take care of such things as roads and communication networks.[3]

Emergency response procedures must be well-communicated and clearly understood by employees to enable immediate implementation in a disaster situation. While no plan can anticipate all possibilities, it will include an analysis of all business functions and how to address interruptions in operational and communications systems and will approach two broad concerns: communication (internal and external) and assistance to displaced employees and their families.[4]

The science of preparing a company to keep operating through a disaster is commonly referred to as business continuity planning. Such planning is one of the fastest-growing industries in the technology world.[5] Larger companies, especially regulated institutions, like banks and brokerage companies, tend to have detailed business continuity plans. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), charged with developing and maintaining a national emergency management capability, has found that smaller businesses are far less likely to even think about this type of planning.[6] But that could be changing. EDS, for example, has seen a 150 percent increase in inquiries on how to protect Web sites and databases and a 200 percent rise in queries about creating off-site disaster recovery since the September 11 attacks. Interest in continuity planning services has grown most from small and medium-sized companies.[7]

A number of organizations have information available that could be useful to businesses interested in emergency planning. For example, FEMA has a “Checklist” to help businesses to create a business recovery manual,[8] while the Governor’s Division of Emergency Management (DEM) at the Texas Department of Public Safety administers a program of Comprehensive Emergency Management to “reduce the vulnerability of the citizens and communities of this State to damage, to injury and to loss of life and property by providing a system for the mitigation of, preparedness for, response to and recovery from natural or man-made disasters.”[9]

The United States Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Disaster Assistance Division assists individuals and businesses harmed by a man-made or natural disaster, including mitigation planning and response. However, while the SBA targets small business needs, its focus is more on the response of businesses and individuals to disasters than on planning.[10]

The Emergency Management Association of Texas (EMAT) has developed voluntary standards and an accreditation program for state and local emergency management programs. The Texas Emergency Manager (TEM) certification program was developed with the help of corporate partners and the Emergency Administration and Planning Program and the Center for Public Management at the University of North Texas to develop corporate planning and training activities for emergency management. Obtaining certification as a TEM enables businesses and other partners to effectively accomplish the goals and objectives of a comprehensive emergency management approach in Texas.[11]

The Association of Contingency Planners (ACP) disseminates contingency and business continuity techniques to member public and private sector organizations. The purpose of this non-profit trade association is to provide an environment for the exchange of experiences and information, including the identification of common planning needs and potential recovery response solutions.[12]

The Texas Association of Business and Chambers of Commerce (TABCC) is Texas' leading employer organization. As a representative of companies of all sizes, its mission to “improve the Texas business climate and to help make our state's economy the strongest in the world.” It is well positioned to assist small and medium-sized businesses develop emergency preparedness plans.[13]

However, TABCC does not have any specific information on emergency preparedness on its Web site, even though some local chambers have begun work in this area. For example, the Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce established an Emergency Preparedness Task Force in 1998 to begin addressing emergency response needs in unincorporated Harris County. It delivers educational lectures to businesses, churches and civic groups and provides materials at malls, but the Chamber does not have the resources or expertise to prepare information for its Web site.[14] As local and other emergency preparedness information is made available to TABCC, it would be appropriate to include it on this organization’s Web site and to distribute it to businesses and to the statewide alliance of business and chamber network.[15]

While the entities above and many others are providing some information to assist businesses with emergency and continuity planning, no one entity has pulled together a comprehensive list of business-focused resources. And no one in the federal government is championing this cause because it does not neatly fit into any one entity’s mission.[16] The state could help by providing targeted information on the Web that businesses of all sizes could readily access and use for this purpose.

The Comptroller’s Window on State Government provides a site that businesses visit often and that could house targeted information to assist businesses with emergency planning information. Other entities with emergency planning functions could help by providing content support and, once completed, could also place this information on their various Web sites to ensure that all businesses in the state can benefit.

As the nation focuses its attention on homeland security, and more and more resources become coordinated and available, new models will be developed that can provide guidance and direction to businesses. These initiatives, as they unfold, could be added to the emergency planning Web sites. For example, the Texas Engineering Experiment Station is proposing to develop a South Texas Regional Homeland Security Center to design a model regional approach for mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery capabilities. This grass-roots approach will focus first on using existing infrastructures to achieve maximum benefits to families and children, after which it will help identify funding sources that local entities could apply for from public, private, and corporate sources so that service and technology gaps identified in the region can be closed. This approach will certainly benefit businesses, along with other individuals and organizations in the region.[17]

Finally, any state agency with emergency management, training and economic development missions could, through their information delivery systems, provide available training and emergency preparation support to their constituencies. This would include, at a minimum, the Texas Department of Economic Development, the Texas Workforce Commission, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and the Texas Department of Health.



Recommendation

The Comptroller’s office will place information about emergency management planning and implementation along with appropriate links to organizations that can provide technical and financial support on its Window on State Government Web site.

Web site information will include materials on basic emergency response planning for businesses, including steps that small and medium size businesses in particular can take to mitigate and respond to disasters. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Small Business Association and the Governor’s Division of Emergency Management, at a minimum, should help provide content support.

Web site information should include training options available through such federal and state organizations as FEMA, the Texas Emergency Manager certification program through the Emergency Management Association of Texas and state agencies such as the Texas Department of Economic Development, the Texas Workforce Commission and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

The Web site should link to available resources through the office of Homeland Security, federal agencies, business associations and universities along with response information provided by the Texas Department of Health. It should also link to the Texas Association of Business and Chambers of Commerce, the Association of Contingency Planners and other appropriate trade and business organizations.


Fiscal Impact

The Web enhancements for the Window on State Government can be completed with existing resources. Partnering organizations and associations will provide support to the extent possible without additional resources.


[1] “CCH, KnowledgePoint Provide Tools, Information to Help Employers, HR Professionals Cope with Crisis,” Business Wire, Inc. (September 19, 2001). Also see HRTools developed by CCH Incorporated and KnowledgePoint at: www.hrtools.com.

[2] U.S. Small Business Administration, “Get Ready – Be Prepared: Disaster Preparedness Considerations”: http://www.sba.gov/disaster/getready.html.

[3] Telephone interview with David Passey, emergency analyst, Federal Emergency Management Agency Region VI, Denton, Texas, October 18, 2001.

[4] Charlene Marmer Solomon, “Bracing for Emergencies,” Workforce: HR Trends & Tools for Business Results Vol. 73, No. 4 (April 1994) pp. 74-83: www.workforce.com/archive/feature/00/03/04/. (Site requires free registration.)

[5] Crayton Harrison, “Attack on America: The Economic Impact,” The Dallas Morning News (October 17, 2001).

[6] Telephone interview with David Passey.

[7] Crayton Harrison, “Attack on America: The Economic Impact.”

[8] Federal Emergency Management Agency, “Standard Checklist Criteria for Business Recovery”: www.fema.gov/ofm/brecov.htm.

[9] Governor’s Division of Emergency Management: http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/dem/; and TEX. GOV’T CODE ANN. §418.

[10] Telephone interview with Michael Lampton, public information officer, U.S. Small Business Administration, Disaster Assistance Division, Waco, Texas, October 17, 2001.

[11] Emergency Management Association of Texas: http://www.emat-tx.org/, http://www.emat-tx.org/corporate_partners.htm and http://www.emat-tx.org/TEM-CEM.doc.

[12] Association of Contingency Planners, “About ACP”: http://www.acp-international.com/nat-info.html.

[13] Texas Association of Business and Chambers of Commerce, “About TABCC”: http://www.tabcc.org/about_tabcc/about_tabcc.html.

[14] Telephone interview with Sandy Turbeville, executive director, and Cheryl Driggs, chair of the Emergency Preparedness Task Force, Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce, Houston, Texas.

[15] Telephone interview with Bill Hammond, president & chief executive officer of the Texas Association of Business and Chambers of Commerce, Austin, Texas, October 10, 2001.

[16] Telephone interview with David Passey.

[17] Telephone interview with Dr. W. Don Dickson, executive director, Texas Center for Applied Technology, Texas Engineering Experiment Station, College Station, Texas, October 10, 2001.