By James Fitzpatrick
If Australia’s private sector and emergency services want to increase their respective resilience against critical incidents, we must improve the relationship and communication between the two.
The emergency services charter vs the private sector charter
Australia’s emergency services deliver a high standard of immediate tactical response. Their primary mission is to ensure the safety and security of the Australian populace, and secondarily to protect critical infrastructure. They are not responsible for protecting the future of your business and its reputation.
They won’t be replying on your behalf to the storm of questions, comments, and conspiracy theories brewing on social media. They won’t be concerned about your bottom line when they deny access to the section of your premises now deemed a crime scene. They won’t be defending your actions in court or to your industry associations. They won’t be contacting your stakeholders to keep them in the loop. They won’t be the answering a stream of calls from journalists digging for more.
It is up to you and your organisation’s leaders to ensure your business manages critical incidents systematically by:
anticipating, assessing, preventing and preparing before they occur
responding and recovering when they occur
evaluating and adapting after they occur.
However, a successful critical incident management program also requires collaboration with emergency services, before, during and after incidents occur.
You are more likely to achieve a positive resolution when critical incidents occur if you have done the preparatory work, built good working relationships and given thought to the interoperability of your organisational response and the emergency services’ response.
The benefits of private-public collaboration
When an organisation is involved in a critical incident, it will usually have invaluable local knowledge and resources that can help the emergency services to do their job. Similarly, a good working relationship with emergency services can provide that same organisation with more opportunities and resources to strategically manage its business’ future, its stakeholders’ wellbeing and its reputation.
This is a seemingly simple formula of mutual benefit, but one that – drawing from our experience as a consultancy working with both sides – needs more focus and investment than it currently gets.
Achieving mutual benefit
The first step to realising mutual benefit is to provide more opportunities for emergency services and private sector organisations to proactively collaborate and discuss response protocols and the latest best practice. The US provides a good example of such a forum with FEMA’s Public-Private Partnerships Conference, held in the December 2015.
Speaking at the conference, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate stressed, “The private sector is an essential member of the team.”
Mr Fugate said, “The more resilient businesses are, the quicker they can recover and provide critical goods and services to help their communities rebuild. Fostering strong working relationships between the private sector, emergency management, and the whole community is great business for everyone, especially the disaster survivor.”
Another crucial step is to incorporate both parties in parallel preparation and training. As an example, whenever we run critical incident simulations or training exercises for our clients at Briggs Communications, we recommend including the emergency service(s) relevant to the incident type and scenario.
When you have two teams with (at the very least) end-goals that align, and a variety of resources, knowledge, and skills that can be shared, it is foolish not to bring the two together, foster good working relationships and realise the mutual benefits.
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