Building Community Disaster Resilience Through Private-Public Collaboration


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Through collaboration, all participants and those they represent will become empowered community members. Although some disasters such as bioterrorism or chemical hazards require specialized expertise, communities prepared for the most common disruptions are those most likely to adapt in the face of more unusual threats. Therefore, the most effective emergency management policies and systems would highlight an all-hazards approach to disaster preparation.

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Because many community collaboration efforts for disaster resilience are still in their infancy, research could identify ways to make these efforts more successful. Examples of useful research include work to investigate factors most likely to motivate businesses of all sizes to collaborate with the public sector, and work to quantify metrics such as the costs and benefits of investing in resilience-focused collaboration.

Building and maintaining disaster resilience depends on the ability of a community to monitor change and appropriately modify plans and activities to accommodate observed changes. Private-public collaboration is a crucial means of building networks and trust vital to creating a sustaining community health Collaboration between the private and public sectors can help develop community resilience because each organization brings its own resources, capacities, and energies to the table for disaster preparation, planning, response, and recovery.

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This allows communities to fully leverage available resources and capacities. Currently, there is no comprehensive framework to guide private-public collaboration focused on disaster preparedness and response. This is despite the fact that state and federal governments have acknowledged the importance of collaboration between private and public organizations, and several previous National Research Council reports have identified specific areas where the private and public sectors have worked cooperatively to reduce the impacts of a disaster.

The respondents explained how this early engagement can develop a shared sense of understanding of how the project would be implemented, paving the way for greater public—private cooperation. Common understanding is further solidified through the development of performance standards that public and private partners agree upon through contract negotiations; such as expected service levels, congestion rates, or safety standards.

The PPP contract is based on consistent performance outcome monitoring by the local authority, which adjusts incentives or penalties to ensure service level achievement. In order to achieve efficiencies, contracts allow private partners discretion in developing or adopting technology — some of which improves information collection and dissemination.

Longitudinal data on traffic patterns can be used to inform predictions of where and how people are likely to travel in different disaster scenarios. The interview comments from representatives of the disaster planning and resilience community, however, indicated some concerns with the nature of public—private cooperation in PPPs. Part of this resistance was perceived to be due to interests in protecting intellectual capital and any disclosures that could improve the positions of their competitors. Communication necessitated by performance monitoring can certainly improve channels of communication between local authorities and infrastructure operators but it does not guarantee interaction with federal authorities or other key stakeholders in disaster planning.

They need to understand the value of the risks they face…and how to respond if something happens. Improving infrastructure resilience requires an understanding of the interdependencies between a given facility and surrounding infrastructure O'Rourke ; Ouyang Whether an electrical plant continues operations after being struck by a tornado depends on whether surrounding roadways were damaged during the storm, the degree to which telecommunications infrastructure was disrupted, and a host of other factors inherent in surrounding infrastructure systems.

Echoing earlier concerns about mandating information sharing, the respondents reiterated concerns with contractually obligating private partners to not only coordinate with local transportation agencies but with the wider community of disaster planning entities involved in preventing and responding to adverse events.

If I have to design, build, operate and maintain it — I'm financially incentivized to reduce costs in the operating phases.

Planning early is much easier than trying to figure it out when you are already into construction. Other persons provided examples of traffic monitoring technologies that were introduced through PPPs as examples of innovations the public sector had not come up with on their own. They provided examples of fully privatized infrastructure providers who failed to adequately protect their own facilities, due either to the rarity of the disruption, or simply a lack of adequate knowledge of how to mitigate a severe event.

One respondent explained how the Verizon Wireless company suffered property damage to their Manhattan fiber optic lines after Hurricane Sandy, due in large part to their use of generators. Respondents also provided examples of companies meeting only the minimum building standards, drawing from examples of chemical facilities and utility providers.

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PRESS RELEASE: Fostering Public-Private Partnerships for One ASEAN, One Response - AHA Centre

Infrastructure services generally operate as natural monopolies, and owners are not under the same pressure to retain customers as businesses are in competitive markets. Private infrastructure owners and operators are, again, under pressure to generate a return on their investment. Given the high costs of designing a facility that will resume operations within the immediate aftermath of a major disruption, it may prove more profitable to simply pay out the penalties for temporary delays rather than control for them.

The problem is magnified by the potential for the public sector to bear the brunt of public outcry from service disruptions, and the pressing need for infrastructure services immediately after a disaster. The private sector uses different formulas for estimating financial risk, often involving insurance adjusters. In other words, the typical approach to risk assessment in public planning is perceived to avoid pricing some risks that are ultimately borne by the public. Another issue is how the planning process for PPPs brings a wider diversity of stakeholder perspectives into estimations of risk.

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One person explained, We'll have extensive risk workshops: engineers, operations people, insurance guys from risk management — and we have very extensive discussions of risk in the project, and what the potential impact could be. What's the impact on other risks? Does a spike in oil prices, lead to a delay in getting asphalt? Much of this pressure was attributed to the pricing of operational costs during project development, a set of expenses that are often considered separately in government funded projects. That is the very nature of lifecycle costs and the overall trend of this type of work.

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Representatives from the resilience community, however, were a bit more skeptical of the ways that private approaches to risk assessment would improve resilience. Similar to their previous comments, they reflected on their experiences working with owners and operators of purely privatized infrastructure. One concern was whether the risks directly related to disasters would actually be transferred to the private sector in PPPs. They have to deal with some questions from investors…we are much more worried about the political risk. PPIAF Given the high costs of bearing such risks and the low probability of their occurrence, they are often retained by the public sector in PPPs.

Another respondent spoke on the difficulty of clarifying precisely where private responsibility ends and public responsibility begins for catastrophic loss. Much of the blame for the BP oil spill, for example, was attributed to decisions by individual subcontractors involved in initiating drilling into the ocean floor, and PPPs depend upon a diversity of subcontractors for delivering integrated, bundled services. This study explored the potentials for a particular form of public — private partnership to align public and private interests for the purposes of disaster resilience.

The observations from the interviewees echo established arguments in favor of private involvement in public services, demonstrating the ways that market incentives can bring greater financial discipline to government planning Grimsey and Lewis ; Savas ; Buchanan Efforts to protect their own intellectual capital and business interests can hinder potentials for sharing business information with government and may divert attention from the network approaches needed in disaster planning.

Furthermore, unless the consequences for disaster risks are adequately transferred to the private sector, their concern for lifecycle costing may not be enough to institute meaningful changes in disaster planning. There are practical implications from this research.


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The value attributed to the upfront planning in contract development for PPPs — from representatives across the resilience and investment communities studied here — provide an important mechanism for aligning public and private interests in developing more resilient infrastructure. The World Bank has outlined similar proposals for transferring greater disaster related risks in PPP through its work in regions prone to earthquakes in Japan.

Source : Cred This study is not without limitations. The qualitative approach to this study provides informative detail of public and private perceptions about disaster resilience, yet a larger scale study involving more comprehensive surveys or archival data would provide a more representative understanding of public and private roles in this area. The research frame was also primarily focused on ways to improve public and private cooperation through the design of contracts for PPPs.

Future research could also explore methods of improving relations with local communities in resilience planning for infrastructure, including mechanisms for involving private partners in the process. Nonetheless, this research provides a formerly understudied perspective on the ways that public and private interests can be reconciled for the purpose of improving infrastructure resilience through PPPs.

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Building Community Disaster Resilience Through Private-Public Collaboration Building Community Disaster Resilience Through Private-Public Collaboration
Building Community Disaster Resilience Through Private-Public Collaboration Building Community Disaster Resilience Through Private-Public Collaboration
Building Community Disaster Resilience Through Private-Public Collaboration Building Community Disaster Resilience Through Private-Public Collaboration
Building Community Disaster Resilience Through Private-Public Collaboration Building Community Disaster Resilience Through Private-Public Collaboration
Building Community Disaster Resilience Through Private-Public Collaboration Building Community Disaster Resilience Through Private-Public Collaboration

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