For the past 30+ years the author has been heavily involved in many aspects of the emergency response community. His job titles have ranged from volunteer firefighter to Fire Chief to Emergency Manager to Urban Search and Rescue Task Force Leader to Corporate Emergency Response Team Chief, encompassing local, corporate and federal emergency response agencies. As a result, he has gained unique insights into how both public and private response agencies operate and will discuss how all of this impacts corporate emergency preparedness and response.

Corporate emergency preparedness and response is one of those programs that run the full gamut of iterations depending upon the individual company. Some companies rarely give emergency situations any thought. Others are fully prepared and staffed. There are fully staffed, equipped and trained teams that will respond to any and all threats including interior structural fires, confined space rescue and hazmat/chem-bio events. There are also corporations that rely totally upon the local public responders for all of their emergency situations, and then there are any number of programs that have many different make-ups in between.

This paper will focus on many of the aspects that should be considered when deciding what is best for your organization. But there is one overriding point that you should understand--there is a very good chance that at some point, your organization will need to stand entirely on its own during an emergency situation. Prepare for it. What you can or cannot do can mean the survival of your organization.

The New Game

The 9/11 and anthrax attacks made companies in the United States more aware of their vulnerabilities to emergency situations – for awhile. That awareness appears to have disappeared when no more attacks occurred.

With the exception of chemical plants and some other industrial operations, modern U.S. companies have traditionally relied almost totally upon public emergency responders for protection during emergency situations. One overarching issue stuck out during the terrorism attacks. It was easy to see that the public emergency response agencies were totally overwhelmed and could not provide full protection to their areas. Not being able to respond is a phenomenon that is more common than most people think for a number of reasons.

During the anthrax attacks, many fire departments were on a 24–72 hour delay to respond to any hazmat or chem-bio incidents. If you thought that you had anthrax or something else in your mail, you were on your own. This also impacted the ability of fire departments to respond to traditional incidents. You might think that those were very unique situations that are unlikely to happen again. Maybe it will, maybe it will not. But the reality is that public response organizations have difficulties responding every day. You need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your local departments so that you can properly prepare.

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