PPBI, as well as other organizations, spend a great deal of time lauding the benefits of private-public partnerships. There’s plenty to say on the matter, but let’s take a look at it from a different perspective – mine.
A partnership implies both parties have something to gain. Believe me, that is the truth, and that’s really what we are seeking. I have found that a partnership really improves my own planning process. I can’t tell you how often I’ve changed things in our planning documents after I’ve found out who else can help us or which organization have different expectations of us. After Katrina, I added a whole section in our plan of what specifically we could do in terms of community relief and built a checklist to implement those contributions.
Everyone asks, “How do I get started?” This is the $64 question. The answers (note the plural) aren’t really answers at all. Rather, they are ideas to help you start thinking in the partnership way – easy.
- My first shot is to strongly recommend you attend our post-conference course at DRJ Spring World 2011 titled “Secrets to Building Successful Private/Public Relationships,” hosted by yours truly and Deidrich Towne, PPBI chairman, and a long-time business continuity professional. The cost is only $195 per person and is the most cost-effective conference course offered (the fee goes to supporting our non-profit PPBI). The three and a half hours will discuss many of the techniques individuals and organizations can use to build really successful, working relationships, where the mutual benefits far outweigh the investments. This is a highly interactive, seminar-style exchange of ideas. We received high marks for this course at DRJ Fall World 2010 in San Diego.
- Join us for another venture at DRJ Spring World 2011 in Orlando for the workshop session titled “PPBI-Incident Management.” We’ll give you an incident management maturity model that incorporates the latest standards to let you evaluate your own program. (Your auditors will love you for it!) Using the guidelines in NFPA1600 and other industry best practices, you will also learn how to better connect with the public and private organizations in your area when building, exercising, and updating your plan.
- Attend a Meta-Leadership conference in your area. These are sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control foundation in Atlanta, and they schedule them throughout the U.S. on a periodic basis. This is an excellent one-day seminar that has you leaving with a personal commitment to take action. This is great material that will challenge your thinking and help you start creating a network of contacts you can use in your day-to-day planning efforts.
- Meet your local county emergency management team. Better yet, arrange for your crisis management team to tour your county emergency operations cell. This will give you a better understand of what they do (and what they don’t do.)
- Get third parties involved in your business continuity exercises. Yes, that’s right! You don’t have exercise in isolation. In fact, your exercises will be a lot better if you add realism and take your staff out of the “just another test” syndrome. Table-tops are good, but when you are done, all you have left is a table-top with a lot of scribbled notes. Create some real experiences for your staff. How? Consider these:
- Build an exercise based on a white powder incident. Start out with a real envelope full of white powder. When the staff completes the building evacuation, have the local HAZMAT team meet them at the assembly point. These folks are more than happy to show you what toys they have on their trucks, explain what we can expect from them, and even go so far as to demo a decon wash-down. Of course, you have to set this up and coordinate ahead of time, but it’s a great experience for everyone.
- Build an exercise based on a bomb threat. Start out with a real phone call, building evacuation, and, you guessed it, have the bomb squad meet them in the assembly point. Now go through a building search. You’ll be amazed how often the expectations of your staff don’t line up with the expectations of the bomb squad. This is a real learning experience for your staff.
- Build an exercise based on a hostage event. (Is there a pattern developing here?) You guessed it. Here’s a good scenario to complicate the building evacuation since some areas of the building are blocked by the event. Follow it through to a conclusion, and then let some staff be involved in the interviews of “what happened” and notice how information gets really confused. Let them experience that not everything is cut and dried. Every one of them will have a different perspective on the incident.
- Take any exercise and create a media event out of it. If your staff doesn’t understand the importance of media management and how to make it work, they will after your scenario introduces them to everything that can go wrong with respect to media management. (Who says you can’t have a private/quazi public partnership) Build your friends in the media in good times, and maybe they’ll cooperate better during an actual event. I’ve gotten volunteers from local media and from local university journalism schools to play roles.
No, I haven’t given away the chickens. There’s still a lot more in our course and workshop. Please consider joining us. It’s a great dialogue.
Ideas are not restricted to any of us, and to me that is the beauty of organizations like PPBI and other business continuity professionals. All of the professional organizations have a different perspective, and each brings a different emphasis to the table. There is value in each of them.
Of course, we like to think our perspective is unique, and those of us who develop our courses, publish the newsletter, staff the booth at DRJ, carry board responsibilities, or remain as contributing members are often vociferous and adamant in our viewpoints. We welcome more.
It’s not too early to plan on attending the DRJ Spring World 2011 conference in Orlando. When you do, please visit us our booth, join us at our workshop on “PPBI-Incident Management,” and plan to attend our “Secrets” course. We look forward to seeing you there.
Ken Schroeder, CBCP, is vice president for business continuity at Southeast Corporate. He is responsible for the life cycle management of all business continuity functions, coordinating with each business process owner to ensure backup processes are in place for all critical functions and single points of failure within the corporate structure. He develops and exercises critical portions of the plan, trains staff on their roles, and encourages a climate of redundancy, resiliency, and rapid response. He provides consulting services to member credit unions.