We have received several inquiries from our small business clients regarding contracting opportunities for relief efforts related to the tornadoes that impacted Lee County, Alabama this week. Per our conversations with the Alabama Department of Finance (Purchasing Division) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), companies are advised to follow this two-step process.
- Ensure that your company is properly registered in the STAARS system. STAARS stands for “State of Alabama Accounting and Resource System.” As the State’s enterprise-wide accounting system, STAARS supports all financial, procurement, and human resource transactions. All vendor interactions—including solicitations, purchase orders, payments, and receipts—are maintained in STAARS.
- Ensure that your company is properly registered in SAM.
The System for Award Management (SAM) is an official website of the U.S. government. There is no cost to use SAM. You can use this site for FREE to register to do business with the US government, update/renew your entity registration, check the status of a registration, or search for a registration.
Procurement Specialists at the Alabama PTAC can assist with registering in both of these systems.
FEMA will ask for a list of properly registered state vendors from the State Purchasing Office and will attempt to contract with local businesses that are properly registered in both systems.
Disaster Contracting Tips
Natural Disasters can be a time of crisis or opportunity for small business government contractors. The Thomas T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, passed in 2007, requires FEMA to contract with businesses located in the affected area when feasible and practicable, which brings unexpected and often substantial contracting opportunities in the wake of a disaster.
FEMA needs certain types of items most frequently following a disaster, such as office supplies, dumpsters, shredders and other disposal equipment, janitorial supplies, locks, portable toilets, hand washing stations and sometimes material moving equipment such as forklifts. In many areas they need certain services such as certified translators.
If the goods or services you provide are relevant to disaster response, the following steps can help you to position yourself to take advantage of such contracting opportunities when a disaster strikes.
- Establish relationships with municipal and county governments, as well as state procurement offices. (Have you attended one of our matchmaker events?) Often these offices control much of the work that is done. In fact, FEMA doesn’t do anything without request and concurrence from the state, local and (when applicable) tribal governments. The type, kind and quantity of assistance FEMA provides
isentirely up to state and local authorities. If debris removal contracts are already in place for routine incidents, such as wind or ice storms, those contracts will probably be used for major disasters first.
- Be aware that, like most federal buyers, FEMA buyers often perform quick and dirty market research via Google. Make sure your company is well represented on the internet, with an up to date website that clearly describes the goods and services you offer. Also, check your SAM (System for Award Management) and DSBS (Dynamic Small Business Search) profiles periodically to ensure that your status is “active”, the contact information is current, and your list of capabilities is complete.
- FEMA buys some things at the region level and some at the national level. Establish contracting relationships with the appropriate offices ahead of disasters. Buyers often turn to the contractors they know rather than to local businesses.
- Never rest on special databases or designations. FEMA and other federal buyers don’t necessarily use the Disaster Relief designation in SAM or the GSA Disaster Response designation. The FEMA Industry Liaison Program (http://www.fema.gov/about-industry-liaison-program) is only one point of access for vendors to FEMA buyers, and not necessarily the primary one. Do not depend on these alone for visibility during a disaster.
(Article by Carter Merkle, Oklahoma PTAC )