I am attending the 2012 State of Florida Public Sector-Private Sector Disaster Preparedness Summit. This is a conference long overdue and critical for any community’s preparedness for a disaster. As I prepare, I reflect on the two faces of the public and private sector in disaster.
The first thing we think about in disaster is the impact on people. Lives are lost, families are left homeless, and livelihoods are destroyed. Neighbors help neighbors, common folks become heroes, and donors send water, food, clothing and money. Local, state, and federal governments coordinate different aspects of disaster, nonprofits do what they do best, and various public services scramble to meet the accelerated needs of the community.
Our first thoughts aren’t usually about the private sector, although 85-90 percent of our nation’s infrastructure is owned by the private sector. This is the life-blood of our economy and a key component in disasters.
It’s the manufacturing companies and retailers that provide the water, food, and building materials for response and recovery. It’s the privately owned transportation companies that get the good to the affected area. It’s the construction crews that rebuild houses and repair roads, the hoteliers that provide housing for the displaced, the medical professionals that heal the injured, and the educators that reestablish schools for our children. It’s the businesses that quickly reopen and provide jobs to stimulate the economy. Many of those businesses even invest in research and development of new technologies, stronger materials, and creative solutions to make our communities less vulnerable to disasters.
How do these two sectors come together in the face of disaster? We’ll start figuring that out at the conference!