After a disaster, stories often emerge about companies and organizations that provided resources and services to aid in the response efforts. Sometimes these are prearranged formal agreements, but often they emerge more spontaneously as the need arises within communities. It, of course, is not possible to plan for every potential threat or scenario. However, there are many actions that could be taken in advance of an emergency to build resilience into any ensuing scenario.
Identifying obtainable resources, building relationships with potential partners, and providing interactive opportunities such as meetings and tabletop exercises are just a few examples. Research, healthcare threats, sheltering, and response surge are four key topics addressed in this issue requiring public-private collaboration:
- A complete picture of threats, resource needs, response efforts, etc. cannot be created when research lacks practitioner input or practitioners fail to integrate research. “Pracademic” collaboration provides insight and direction for building more resilient communities.
- Pandemic influenza and other healthcare disasters require inter-jurisdictional collaboration to identify signs and symptoms because biological threats know no boundaries. In a short amount of time, such threats can travel unseen from city to city and country to country.
- Sheltering is one aspect of disaster response that would significantly benefit from pre-disaster collaboration. With collaboration, public and private agencies and organizations can identify community needs for people and animals, locate resources, and develop plans and contingencies.
- Whether formal or informal, collaboration should be a priority in disaster preparedness efforts to identify potential resources and better anticipate response surge. By identifying “predictable surge,” agencies are able to respond more efficiently and better allocate resources.
Collaboration is not a step in the disaster mitigation-preparedness-response-recovery spectrum. Rather, it is a process that must be woven into and nurtured at each phase and must start now.