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For the first time ever, thanks to a unique public and private partnership, businesses throughout New York State will soon be able to gain special emergency access at the time of a major disaster. Never before has a public/private joint emergency planning effort resulted in such a monumental outcome. New York City and the City of Buffalo, in conjunction with the not-for-profit Business Network of Emergency Resources (BNet), have teamed up to introduce the Corporate Emergency Access System (CEAS). The CEAS program is designed to help business owners, both large and small, mitigate the potential damage and financial losses that may result from an unforeseen emergency or catastrophe by allowing critical staff access during an emergency event.

In the past, when police were forced to close off streets, roads and public passageways as a result of an emergency event, it was a matter of “no access” or “who-you-know access” for area businesses. But now the Corporate Emergency Access System levels the playing field for businesses in Buffalo and lower Manhattan who will soon begin a pilot CEAS program in coordination with the New York City Office of Emergency Management.

The Corporate Emergency Access System was developed after business representatives and emergency management officials throughout the state decided that the immediate concern of businesses at the time of an emergency was having timely access to their work facilities to mitigate financial loses. The Region 2 office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funded a joint loss reduction partnership initiative four years ago and invited representatives from the private and public sectors of New York. The New York State Emergency Management Office (SEMO), along with FEMA, led the partnership effort. The objective was to define the major concerns of businesses in a large-scale regional event. The No. 1 issue was access. It was determined that the best way to implement emergency management programs that addressed the concerns of businesses was to create a state chartered, not-for-profit organization that would represent the interests of businesses. As a result of this partnership, BNet was born. This organization would work with the state, city and local government agencies to implement emergency management programs that would help sustain critical business operations in the region.

Companies that were instrumental in the development of this program include: FleetBoston Financial, IBM Business Continuity and Recovery Services, JPMorgan Chase Bank, M&T Bank, the New York United Hospital Medical Center, Merrill Lynch & Co., Morgan Stanley, Times Union of Albany and Troy Savings Bank. Acting as partner advisory organizations are the City of Buffalo Office of Emergency Management, the Contingency Planning Exchange, Empire State Development, the Federal Emergency Management Agency Region 2, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the New York Department of State, the New York City Office of Emergency Management, the New York State Emergency Management Office, the New York State Police, and the New York State Volunteer Fire Police Association.

CEAS Benefits

The benefits of the CEAS program are huge for businesses that struggle to recover their critical operations following a major disaster event. Many businesses never recover following a disaster and the purpose of such a system is to help sustain a company until normal business can be resumed. CEAS will assist local businesses in re-entering areas restricted to public access. When given the official approval from the city, businesses will now be able to instantly begin site assessment of their offices and start their restoration process. By virtue of early assessments, businesses will then be able to move quickly with recovery plans, if needed. Employees identified as “essential” by their company would also be given the opportunity to remove critical computer files, equipment and vital records from their offices as examples. The benefits for the local government are also substantial. By allowing companies special access, they will be helping vital businesses recover more quickly and speed up the economic recovery of their community. It is also an incentive for businesses to remain in the areas and cities they presently reside. In these risky times of legitimate terrorist threats to our major cities, this has become an important need for both public and private sectors.

The CEAS program provides essential employees with training and a qualification process to receive a standard access credential. The heart of the program is the CEAS credential. A single identification card must be recognizable to all police officers and other law enforcement officials at the checkpoints throughout the impacted region (this includes National Guardsmen or other military personnel, as was the case in New York City after Sept. 11). The CEAS card must be able to provide a positive, verifiable credential that identifies the carrier as “essential” to his or her employer. BNet worked with police organizations throughout New York State to develop a standard photo ID with a hologram and reader capabilities. This CEAS card is now acceptable to all. Law enforcement and other safety officials in control would recognize the credential at the time of the disaster. Employer assigned essential personnel with CEAS credentials may feel confident that they will be allowed right-of-entry, when general public access is restricted, if safety conditions permit.

CEAS Eligibility

All businesses and companies in approved regions of New York are eligible for participation in the CEAS program. Private sector organizations, not-for-profit corporations, and other non-governmental entities, which maintain a business address in New York, are eligible. Every type of business, from a dry cleaner to a law firm to a software development company, to a major financial institution is eligible. There is an annual subscription fee per participating company and a charge per employee card. The CEAS card will be good for a term of two years, which at that time it will be necessary to renew the card for a fee. All charges are needed to support the implementation and maintenance of the CEAS program. No government or taxpayer money is going to the support of this program. It is entirely funded by the businesses and corporations of the private sector.

CEAS Activation, Access

The mayor and his or her crisis management team will activate the CEAS program at the time of an emergency event. It will be made by an announcement through the press and through the BNet office. The CEAS program is viewed as an element of the city’s contingency plan and it is not a separate or independent function. The activation of the CEAS program will revolve around determinations made by the mayor and public officials as to the safety of areas affected by the emergency. Under certain conditions access under any level of activation in this plan may be limited to a controlled entry point by which CEAS card holders will be permitted ingress only under police escort. Access may be limited or denied at any time during activation due to sudden changing conditions. It is important to note that the health and welfare of credential holding employees takes top priority over any business interruption need. The participating jurisdiction will not put any CEAS card holder in harm’s way and will not permit access if conditions are life threatening.

These are the agreed upon levels of access in the CEAS program:

-ENTRY X: All access prohibited – Conditions pose an imminent danger to life and no one is permitted within the designated area.
-ENTRY D: Direct involvement only – All companies directly involved in alleviating the effects of the emergency are allowed access. Companies will be specifically defined at the time of the occurrence by local authorities. These companies are not required to possess CEAS credentials but will gain entry to perform emergency work based on existing company identification.
-ENTRY C: Critical industries – Sectors of business that have been pre-determined to be vital to the continuing economic viability of the city, state, national or global economies will be allowed access with a CEAS ID card. The sectors are defined as follows:

• Banking and Financial Services
• Food Distribution
• Public Power/Gas & Telecommunications
• Department of Defense Contractors (verified by DOD)
• News Media
• Fuel Distribution
• Hotel (Convention/Tourism)

-ENTRY B: Basic functions, all companies – In addition to Entry D employees, essential employees of all companies with CEAS credentials will be permitted entry to enable a basic functioning of business operations until the emergency condition ends.
-ENTRY A: All permitted, vehicular limitations – Conditions require the limitation of vehicular traffic to only essential employees (Entry D, C and B authorized). A CEAS credential within a designated emergency zone will be required only for an employee who is driving. Non-essential employees will be permitted entry if it is made by public transportation, pooling with an essential employee, or by non-vehicular means.


BNet will provide the required training of all employees who will be participating in the CEAS program. The objective is to ensure each credential holder meets all the requirements of the protocol, including:

• Understanding of local emergency management system and protocols.
• Comprehension of the purpose and the parameters of the credential.
Exposure to common concepts for dealing effectively with various kinds of emergency conditions.

CEAS training will be done over the BNet Web site. Upon acceptance into the program and before a credential is issued, the employee will be given a user ID and password to access the training module online. After reading and understanding procedures and protocol of the CEAS program, the employee will complete an exercise to demonstrate his or her understanding.

The Corporate Emergency Access System (CEAS) for New York State is a proactive, innovative concept in emergency management for the private sector. As a result of recent emergencies in western New York, New York City and Watertown, government and corporate officials are now requesting a system that would permit, when possible, critical company employees to have access to their work sites during emergency conditions. The program they will be implementing is the CEAS program. CEAS will help sustain a company until normal business operations can be resumed. The City of Buffalo is well under way with this initiative. The City of New York is currently piloting the CEAS program in Manhattan’s financial district south of Chambers Street. After the initial pilot period, the CEAS program will be gradually expanded to include the remainder of the city and at some point all of New York State. If you would like to know more about the CEAS program and how your company may particpate, visit the BNet Web site at www.bnetinc.org or call the BNet offices at 888-353-BNET.


Mark Haimowitz is president of Business Network of Emergency Resources (BNet). BNet is a not-for-profit organization representing the interests of businesses throughout New York State and works with city, county and state government agencies to develop and implement public/private emergency management plans. Haimowitz is also a vice president of Merrill Lynch in the global contingency planning division. For more information visit the BNet website at www.BnetInc.org.