Hurricane season is upon us. While homeowners in hurricane-prone areas prepare for the worst and hope for the best, FEMA contractors also update their teams. Disaster relief opportunities abound following devastation from natural disasters. Historically, non profit agencies jump in to help the injured and sick. The US Military Disaster Response Team deploys to work side by side with local officials. The combined efforts of civilian and military operations have become common. According to the FEMA website: Mitigation Assessment Teams (MATs) are made up of representatives of FEMA Headquarters and of FEMA Regional Offices, state and local officials, and public and private sector experts in technical disciplines such as structural and civil engineering, architecture, building construction, natural hazards research, and code development and enforcement. Since the market downturn, many firms have traveled cross country and overseas to find a way to “get listed” as an approved FEMA contractor or a subcontractor.
“Since the early 1990s, FEMA has deployed assessment teams in response to Hurricanes Andrew, Iniki, Opal, Fran, Georges, Charley, Ivan, and Katrina. FEMA has also deployed MATs in response flood disasters in California, Georgia, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Texas; tornadoes in Oklahoma and Kansas; the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City; and the attack on the World Trade Center towers in New York City. The most recent MAT deployment was in response to Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.”
Many remember stories from the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew (in 1992) when surveyors and civil engineers descended upon South Florida to offer their services. I heard stories of teams of surveyors and engineers sleeping in their trucks. Then again in 2005 Katrina left a multitude of work for our industry. Are you proactively marketing to FEMA and the FEMA approved contractors? Or, are you reactionary and chasing diasters after they hit and sleeping in your truck?
The Heritage Foundation’s Dennis R. Shrader lectured on FEMAUnfinished Business and asked: “How do we nationally collaborate and allocate resources to effectively and efficiently prepare ourselves in order to prevent, protect against, respond to and recover from catastrophic incidents?” It is an interesting lecture and I encourage you to read. With that in mind, I would ask you almost the same question. How do you, as those involved in the civil engineering community, collaborate to effectively and efficiently prepare yourselves in order to respond to catastrophic incidents, to help our communities rebuild?
Profiting from disasters can be seen as “distasteful.” Kerry Harding, President, The Talent Bank, responds “through FEMA, the nation has a planned, measured response to disaster mitigation with pre-approved vendors with pre-approved fee structures in place that they rely on in times of emergency. There is NOTHING unprofessional or “sleazy” about fulfilling the terms of a previously negotiated contract. When disaster strikes, it’s too late for firms who haven’t been thoroughly vetted to try and jump on the bandwagon. At that point, the stakes are too high.”
Are you and your firm ready to respond? Are your “ducks in a row?”