Marketing Opportunities After A Disaster

August 26, 2009 at 9:16 pm 3 comments

By Carol Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of

Hurricane season is upon us. While homeowners in hurricane-prone areas prepare for the worst and hope for the best, FEMA contractors also update their teams. Disaster relief opportunities abound following devastation from natural disasters. Historically, non profit agencies jump in to help the injured and sick. The US Military Disaster Response Team deploys to work side by side with local officials. The combined efforts of civilian and military operations have become common. According to the FEMA website:  Mitigation Assessment Teams (MATs) are made up of representatives of FEMA Headquarters and of FEMA Regional Offices, state and local officials, and public and private sector experts in technical disciplines such as structural and civil engineering, architecture, building construction, natural hazards research, and code development and enforcement. Since the market downturn, many firms have traveled cross country and overseas to find a way to “get listed” as an approved FEMA contractor or a subcontractor.

Since the early 1990s, FEMA has deployed assessment teams in response to Hurricanes Andrew, Iniki, Opal, Fran, Georges, Charley, Ivan, and Katrina. FEMA has also deployed MATs in response flood disasters in California, Georgia, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Texas; tornadoes in Oklahoma and Kansas; the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City; and the attack on the World Trade Center towers in New York City. The most recent MAT deployment was in response to Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.”

Many remember stories from the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew (in 1992) when surveyors and civil engineers descended upon South Florida to offer their services. I heard stories of teams of surveyors and engineers sleeping in their trucks. Then again in 2005 Katrina left a multitude of work for our industry. Are you proactively marketing to FEMA and the FEMA approved contractors? Or, are you reactionary and chasing diasters after they hit and sleeping in your  truck?

The Heritage Foundation’s Dennis R. Shrader lectured on FEMAUnfinished Business and asked:  “How do we nationally collaborate and allocate resources to effectively and efficiently prepare ourselves in order to prevent, protect against, respond to and recover from catastrophic incidents?”  It is an interesting lecture and I encourage you to read.  With that in mind, I would ask you almost the same question.  How do you, as those involved in the civil engineering community,  collaborate to effectively and efficiently prepare yourselves in order to respond to catastrophic incidents, to help our communities rebuild?

Profiting from disasters can be seen as  “distasteful.”  Kerry Harding, President, The Talent Bank, responds “through FEMA, the nation has a planned, measured response to disaster mitigation with pre-approved vendors with pre-approved fee structures in place that they rely on in times of emergency.  There is NOTHING unprofessional or “sleazy” about fulfilling the terms of a previously negotiated contract. When disaster strikes, it’s too late for firms who haven’t been thoroughly vetted to try and jump on the bandwagon.  At that point, the stakes are too high.”

Are you and your firm ready to respond?  Are your “ducks in a row?”

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Entry filed under: Civil Engineering Companies, Civil Engineering Issues, Marketing, US Infrastructure.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Karen  |  August 31, 2009 at 9:26 am

    As our industry has dried up, I am looking for new employment opportunities. As a residential kitchen and bath project designer in the remodeling industry (mid to high end) , I realize that in this economy I need to go back to basics where there is more of a need. Where would you say I might fit within an organization such as fEMA? What training would be most beneficial?

  • 2. Richard C. Moeur, PE  |  August 27, 2009 at 11:51 pm

    Although I’m not currently in private-sector practice, I see ethical issues raised by the choice of wording in the headline. Although the text does take pains to address professional and ethical issues in providing post-disaster services, the headline gives a different impression. Although it may be a bit late now, perhaps a better word choice might have been “response” instead of “marketing”.

    • 3. aepcentral  |  August 28, 2009 at 10:29 am

      Richard; I wanted to entice comments and have it try to address the ethical or “distasteful” aspect of “ambulance chasing.” Point heard. Thanks for your comments. Important to hear!


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