Lessons in Building Public-Private Partnerships From the Seattle Area

By Joseph Straw

Government homeland security leaders unanimously acknowledge the need to engage the private sector in their mission, from prevention of attacks on critical infrastructure to resource sharing during response and recovery. They also agree, however, that forging those relationships is among the toughest tasks they face. 

Those in government wrestling with the challenge, as well as their counterparts in the private sector, can take lessons from King County, Washington, which covers Seattle and its neighboring suburbs. In that region, public and private stakeholders have long worked cooperatively on a regional disaster plan.

The process began even before 9-11, dating to 1998, when county performance management specialist Richard Gelb approached Eric Holdeman, then director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM). Gelb shared his view that the county would benefit from an overarching emergency management framework that would interconnect the jurisdiction’s numerous, often conflicting city and local plans, Holdeman says. The agency decided that including the region’s private sector in the framework simply made sense, given its stake in resilience and recovery, and the resources it could bring to bear. The private sector’s enthusiasm for the plan was limited at first, he says, but that began to change with the 6.8-magnitude Nisqually earthquake that shook the Seattle region in February 2001 and the 9-11 attacks that followed soon thereafter.

(To finish reading "Forging Public-Private Relationships" from the May 2010 issue of Security Management, click here.)

♦ Photo of Seattle skyline by papalars/Flickr 


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