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[Webinar Recap] Enhancing Private-Public Partnerships for Underserved Community Disaster Resilience

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Whether we may realize it or not, businesses — both small and large — have a profound influence on disaster resilience. When we think about emergency management, it’s easy to default back to representatives from government agencies, but the private sector has an important role to play during times of crisis too. Private-public partnerships address planning and preparedness gaps that would otherwise leave communities vulnerable. Our recent webinar shed light on that exact subject — discussing strategies organizations can use to forge partnerships between private and public sectors to serve underserved communities better.

In the “How Private-Public Sector Partnerships Can Better Serve the Underserved” webinar, we were joined again by industry leaders Andrea Davis and Valerie Haven. Both our panelists come from extensive backgrounds serving underserved communities Davis, held former Emergency Management Director roles at Disney and Walmart and is current President and CEO of the Resiliency Initiative. Haven is the first blind individual to earn a master's in Emergency Management from Massachusetts Maritime Academy and CEO of Redefining Bravery.

The webinar discussed crucial strategies for private-public partnerships like:

  • How to partner with businesses better during crises
  • How to engage with both small businesses and large corporations more effectively
  • Ways to include children in preparedness efforts
  • Insights to build trust within communities

The session concluded with a Q&A where our attendees delved into thought-provoking questions illuminating more ways private-public partnerships empower underserved communities. In the spirit of “listening and letting the community guide you” (a valuable insight from Valerie and Andrea), we decided to share what you wanted to know about most for enhancing private-public partnerships. Let’s start with a question from Jeanette P.

Common ICS Language

Jeanette P: How do we get the language of the private sector on the same page, such as the Incident Command System (ICS)?

In the same way that a chef might not know the full medical school glossary, it’s also likely a doctor will not know everything there is to know about culinary terms. For this reason, you can’t assume someone knows technical language or phrases that may be uncommon for them. In the case of private-sector partnerships, emergency managers must proactively explain the meaning and importance of words concerning the Incident Command System (ICS) to the private sector to increase shared understanding. Here are some best practices to get the private sector on the same page for ICS language as described by our panelists:

  • Reach out to businesses and local organizations to understand their existing plans and resources and how they can help during an incident
  • Identify gaps and vulnerabilities in current planning and preparedness, and make a plan for success in partnership with the whole community
  • Encourage the private sector to participate in joint exercises, drills, and sessions to build trust and skills, as well as familiarize them with ICS language and principles
  • Offer informational sessions on ICS language, roles, and responsibilities to align everyone's shared understanding
  • Share past private-public sector partnership success stories for disaster preparedness and inspire other private sectors to invest in preparedness

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“Many people want to help, they just don’t know how.”

— Valerie Haven

Supporting Private-sector Businesses

Stephen L: How can emergency managers better support private businesses to help sustain them in a disaster?

Our panelists emphasized doing the work well before the disaster strikes, as it helps lessen the burden that comes along with responding to the disaster “as it comes”. There are some steps that emergency managers can take to sustain private-sector businesses along the way, ones that have been more successful for our panelists include:

  • Going out in the community,  getting to know everyone from small businesses, to big box stores, and non-profits
  • Building relationships through sustained, repeatable engagement. Have meetings, information share, hold training, and get stakeholders involved
  • Showing your commitment to the relationships by offering resources and information on sustaining business operations in disasters; offer to give preparedness briefings at businesses
  • Listening to your community to help identify major gaps (like supply-chain logistics) and work together on a continuity plan

Being proactive is always better than being reactive, and that’s especially true for disaster resilience.


Engaging with Large Corporations

Kylie L: How can I effectively engage with ‘big-box’ stores like Target to understand their disaster response planning when hierarchies can often hinder managers from having full knowledge and lead to responses like, "I'm not sure, you'll have to talk to “X"?

Engaging with large corporations can be challenging due to complex organizational structures. For this reason, persistence and building relationships are key. Some steps Andrea recommended when dealing with larger corporations for disaster response:

  • Start by identifying the appropriate point of contact within the organization and seek out designated emergency managers or corporate representatives responsible for disaster response
  • Explain the purpose and benefits of your partnership to the contact — let them know why it matters and how partnership can help both of your organizations
  • Offer to meet with various stakeholders, including "X," to understand their plans and capabilities better, this will help you make more informed decisions when planning for emergencies
  • Provide a clear agenda for the discussion and be prepared to address their concerns - understanding hesitations is equally as important as advocating for emergency preparedness
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“Look up the person on LinkedIn and message them directly. Find the “me” of their organization, and try typing things like “Emergency Director of Target.” Every organization has one.”

— Andrea Davis

Over time, consistent efforts will foster trust and allow for more open and collaborative communication between you and the private-sector emergency manager.

Including Children in Your Plans

Patricia F.: "I've found children are sometimes left out. How do we make sure they're included in plans?”

Involving children in disaster preparedness efforts is paramount to creating a resilient community. Children are vital stakeholders as they play a significant role in influencing their families and communities. Engaging them empowers them to advocate for preparedness and resilience, creating a ripple effect within their homes and schools.

To include children in preparedness efforts, our panelists recommend:

  • Collaborating with schools and educational institutions for emergency preparedness
  • Developing age-appropriate educational programs that teach children about emergency planning, safety measures, and response procedures
  • Considering involving youth organizations and clubs to spread the message of preparedness to a broader audience

One attendee, Julia N. described how her own organization includes children in community preparedness, “We train 4th and 5th graders regarding wildfire preparedness and how human behaviors cause wildfire. We provide Go-Bags filled with emergency radios and other supplies and printed materials. The kids love this program and take home what they learned and point out to their families the things they need to create defensible space and harden their homes for fire mitigation. We are now talking with the school board to make this a permanent part of the curriculum.”


Building Trust Before a Disaster

Linda N.: How do we build trust with our community before a disaster?

Building trust is so important for all groups but especially underserved communities. We recently covered that topic in our latest webinar, some of the tips we shared included:

  • Listening to underserved communities
  • Being open to letting people teach you
  • Inviting people to the table
  • And much more

The approach to building trust with anyone is a continuous effort, and so it requires a plan. Underserved communities have historically been neglected and overlooked, and serving them can empower resilience in times of disaster.  We cover a cohesive strategy for building trust with underserved communities in our full webinar recap.



  • Emergency managers should engage in a local "treasure hunt" to identify to integrate all the businesses into a whole community plan
  • Listen to learn your private businesses' language for effective communication through preparedness and experienced disasters
  • Develop creative ways to share value add of a detailed continuity plan with small businesses in their language - mindful of their time constraints

At their best, private-public partnerships can help everyone at the table better respond, recover, and serve communities in times of disaster response. Taking these best practices into account can not only get everyone involved on the same page but also ensure that underserved groups are better supported. If you’d like to learn more, we invite you to watch the full on-demand version of our conversation by clicking the button below.


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