Mercyhurst to assist businesses in preparing for emergencies

Whether facing a terrorist threat, toxic waste spill or a natural disaster, private sector preparedness is the cost of doing business in a post-9/11 world.

A free daylong conference, sponsored by the Northwest Pennsylvania Business Coalition for Homeland Security on Friday, Oct. 14, will help private businesses be better prepared to deal with emergencies. The coalition is a collaboration of the Mercyhurst College Public Safety Institute, the Northwest Pennsylvania Emergency Response Group (NW PA ERG) and northwest Pennsylvania businesses.

Its inaugural conference, “Business Continuity: Can Your Company Survive the Next Disaster?,” is designed to help businesses prepare for emergencies and forge relationships that will allow the public and private sectors to cooperate when emergencies do occur. It will be held at the Frank G. Pogue Student Center of Edinboro University from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Project Director Rick Lamb of Mercyhurst College said public safety is everyone’s business and noted that approximately 85 percent of the nation’s critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector.

Lamb cited the massive supply chain interruption faced by industries like Toyota after the tsunami in Japan last March as one example of how businesses need to be prepared. Closer to home, natural disasters like flooding can severely impact businesses without up-to-date contingency plans, he added.

Services offered by the coalition include the Business Emergency Communication Network (BECON), which alerts businesses of emergency threats like weather and hazardous spills; and Private Assets for Region Responders (PARR), which provides the business community with a database of items required in the time of an emergency, including safety personnel, equipment, supplies and facilities.

The coalition also facilitates periodic meetings to discuss safety concerns, an unbiased evaluation of building conditions and operating systems, crime prevention education, internal control policies and strategic planning initiatives.

The Oct. 14 conference will feature keynote speaker Larry Camper of the U.S. Regulatory Commission, who will address “Nuclear Accidents: Myths and Realities and What it Means to our Communities.” Also slated to speak is Glenn Cannon, director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. The afternoon panel discussion will center on resilient communications, cyber security and steps to securing a large facility among other topics. Lunch will be provided.

Besides the three founding groups, the coalition works with its Pittsburgh counterpart – the Pittsburgh Regional Business Coalition for Homeland Security, which is the first organized effort officially linking public safety assets to private enterprise, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Pittsburgh district.

The Pittsburgh coalition was initiated by UPMC and Westinghouse, noted Dr. Art Amann, director of Mercyhurst PSI. “Mercyhurst and the ERG are acting as the agents to bring this model to our region, and we are hopeful that more businesses will take the lead in moving forward their collective concerns in the area of emergency preparedness.”

To register (by Oct. 7) or obtain more information, please contact Rick Lamb at 814-824-3686, or e-mail him at rick.lamb@nwpabc.org.
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