OPEN WATER: The flood of March 2010 resulted in Warwick Mall being shut down for 144 days as the stores recovered and rebuilt. The mall’s general manager thinks most Rhode Island businesses are now prepared for potential disasters, in part due to recent experience with storms.
Businesses will play an increasingly important role in disaster preparedness and recovery with the anticipated official launch this month of a public-private partnership called the Rhode Island Business Alliance, said Pete Gaynor, director of emergency management for Providence.
“We’ve gone through several disasters in the past few years, with Hurricane Irene, Hurricane Sandy and the blizzard of February 2013, and we always knew instinctively that businesses are an important part of preparedness and recovery, but we’ve realized that businesses are a key ingredient,” said Gaynor. “Now we want to make sure businesses are part of the process.”
The Rhode Island Business Alliance is a collaboration among the Providence Emergency Management Agency, the R.I. Emergency Management Agency and the Northeast Disaster Recovery Information X-Change. Those organizations have been working since February on the development of the program.
The mission of the alliance is to have private-sector organizations collaborate with government agencies and use their combined resources and knowledge “to strengthen resiliency of the local economy and community from the disruptions that occur during and after disasters,” according to the organization’s website, which is currently in a testing phase.
“One of the things we want to do is training to help businesses build response plans or emergency action plans when we have a blue-sky day,” said Gaynor.
“Having a disaster plan or a continuity of operations plan or an emergency action plan, in a business sense, is the ability to have a competitive edge,” he said. “If you can stay in business during a hazard or any kind of emergency event, it’s good for the city. We want businesses to stay open as long as possible.”
A major reason for the creation of the alliance is to build a solid foundation during quiet times that makes things smoother for everyone during an emergency. The alliance will have business members, although there is no cost for membership.
“Large and small businesses are what give a city vitality. We’re very sensitive about making decisions that impact businesses, about whether we are going to close the highway or recommend flexible work hours,” said Gaynor. “We want businesses to be part of the process so they can make the best decision for themselves.”