Purchasing in an emergency has evolved, says Rick Bond, vice president of sales at Safeware, Inc. He says procurement tactics started changing after the September 11, 2001 attacks and the evolution continued through Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, and the Ebola and Zika virus scares. Bond outlines changes and best practices in emergency procurement in a U.S. Communities on-demand video. Go here to view the video.

Hurricane Sandy hit New York City October 29, 2012. Unlike previous major emergencies, crews were prepared with large caches of emergency equipment strategically stored in place when the hurricane struck. The gear, which had been paid for by the federal government, was stored near large cities and in state depots. The stored items included protective gear and equipment for first responders, Bond says. 

When Hurricane Sandy occurred, public purchasers in New York City relied much more on contract and credit card purchases and high-limit p-cards.  Buyers depended much less on emergency purchase orders than they had in past disasters, Bond says. In addition, public procurement officials in New York City had a fairly robust supply chain in place for needed emergency supplies and equipment compared to earlier disasters.

Bond notes that more governments are leaning on cooperative pacts in emergency situations and offers pointers for entities that are considering using a cooperative contract for emergency buys. 

If governments are investigating potential coop contracts to use in emergencies, Bond says they should ask:
—Was a contract competed? 
—Was a lead agency involved in bidding and competing the contract?
—Is the lead agency similar to our agency or entity?
—Does the contract meet our government’s procurement guidelines? —How well was the competition advertised?
—Does the supplier have a national footprint?
—Does the supplier have the capability to serve my government’s service area?

Bond suggested government officials use the ProcureSource website to find and select the right cooperative contract for their jurisdictions. He says the U.S. Communities website can help government officials determine if there are particular legislative requirements or guidelines for cooperative procurement in their states. Go here on the U.S. Communities site to view guidelines for the states, including state statute requirements. 

In the webinar, Bond spotlights several best practices that government procurement administrators employ, such as:

—Set up an ongoing business relationship with key vendors. 

—Engineer redundancy into your emergency procurement program. “It’s not enough to have one good supplier — you need multiple, capable suppliers who can meet different needs in an emergency, so your agency can get the products you require,” Bond says.

—Beware of convenience contracts. “Governments that place purchase orders with convenience vendors can overpay; these firms aren’t close to being the cheapest on commodity buys,” Bond says.

—Construct your supply chain in advance with competed contracts with price already established and guaranteed in advance. “That way, you know you will get a good price when an emergency hits," Bond says.

—Establish financial terms for emergency procurement in advance.

—The current best practice in public procurement is to use multi-state or national cooperatives for emergency buys.

—Supplier availability and responsiveness is huge. “Work with national partners. Work with a firm that has the company culture and enthusiasm of dealing with emergency situations and responses. It’s not a culture found in every company,” Bond advises.  

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