For disaster response contracting – fundamentals and follow-through are key
In the aftermath of a disaster, potential contractors swarm to the site hoping for a piece of the clean-up and recovery effort. For inexperienced players, it can be chaotic, confusing, and cut-throat, as informal subcontracting agreements are made on the ground which may not be enforceable and third-party firms falsely promise no-bid contracts to those who pay big bucks to be on a “priority vendors list” (there is no such list). Government officials in charge of relief efforts are overwhelmed and information may be hard to come by. What is a small contractor to do?
Know the facts:
- The Thomas T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act requires FEMA to contract with businesses located in the affected area when feasible and practicable.
- State and local government agencies control a large proportion of disaster response activities, so many of the contracting opportunities will come through these offices. At the time of a disaster, they may initially rely upon contracts already in place.
- Potential contractors must be registered in the appropriate federal, state, and/or local databases to be eligible for contract awards.
Take care of the fundamentals:
- Make sure that you are registered in all applicable databases (see below) and that your company information is accurate, complete (including detailed capabilities listings), and consistent across all the various registrations (i.e., use the same company name, address, numbers, e-mail and web addresses). This will make it easier for government agencies to cross check your information. Note: your SAM registration must match your IRS and DUNS information.
- 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 and (if possible) includes a link to your catalogue. Especially in emergencies, agency buyers may rely on the internet for market research.
- Actively research to find contract opportunities and then pursue them. See below for information on federal agencies (like FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers) as well as for state and local agencies in Texas and Florida.
Contact the Alabama PTAC: There are never shortcuts in government contracting. The Alabama PTAC can help you—at no cost—to take the steps you need to be eligible, to find, and to bid on government contracts. Disaster recovery is a long process; doing the right things now will position you to take advantage of opportunities that are still weeks or months down the road.
For Federal government opportunities (FEMA; Army Corps of Engineers):
- Register with the System for Award Management (SAM) at www.sam.gov.
- Complete the Disaster Response Information section in SAM indicating you want to be included in the Disaster Response Registry. The Disaster Response Registry is used by FEMA and The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to establish their list of contractors that want to provide disaster-response assistance through Federal Government procurement opportunities. Learn more about the Disaster Response Registry.
- Complete FEMA’s Industry Liaison Program Vendor Profile form and submit it to “email@example.com”; and
- Look for contracting opportunities at the following websites:
- Federal Business Opportunities (Fedbizopps) Contract opportunities exceeding $25,000
- DHS Advance Acquisition Planning System To monitor the DHS Acquisition Planning Forecast System – contract actions exceeding $150,000.
- Potential Subcontracting Opportunities with DHS Prime Contractors: Information on large business Prime Contractors who are interested in subcontracting with small, small and disadvantaged, women-owned small, HUBZone-certified, 8(a), veteran-owned small, and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses, complete with tips on how to pursue subcontracting opportunities with them.
State and Local Government Contracting
State of Texas:
- The Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) is the state agency responsible for coordinating damage surveys and the overall recovery process. Visit their website for more information on opportunities related to the Hurricane Harvey recovery effort
- TDEM and other state agencies, issues notices of procurement opportunities through the Electronic State Business Daily (ESBD) (http://esbd.cpa.state.tx.us/) for opportunities exceeding $25,000. Monitor the ESBD daily for procurement notices.
- State agencies use the Centralized Master Bidders List (CMBL) to locate registered contractors to invite them to bid on opportunities by National Institute of Governmental Purchasings (NIGP) Commodity / Services Codes and highway districts.
- If you are not registered with the CMBL, visit https://comptroller.texas.gov/purchasing/vendor/registration/ to complete your registration. Be sure to enter all your NIGP codes and indicate the highway districts where you can provide your products and services. The NIGP codes entered and highway districts selected are the prime criteria used to send notices of opportunities to contractors.
Harris County, TX: In order to do business with Harris County as a prime contractor, you must be a registered vendor.
- Harris County uses BuySpeed Online to manage contractor registrations and post procurement opportunities; visit https://bids.hctx.net/bso/ to register your business with the Harris County Purchasing Department. As disaster-recovery requirements are defined by the county in the upcoming weeks, procurement opportunities will be posted on BuySpeed. Be sure to enter all your applicable NIGP codes.
- Harris County is currently focused on debris-removal and debris-monitoring services. The purchasing department has existing contracts in place to provide these services. You may contact these companies to inquire if they have subcontracting opportunities.
- If you have specific questions for the Harris County Purchasing Department, click here to find the Purchasing Department Employee list and / or call 713-274-4400.
City of Houston: The city of Houston requires that all prime contractors be registered. Visit the City of Houston Strategic Purchasing Division (SPD) website to register your business and enter your NIGP codes. As opportunities become available, SPD will post them on their website. Registered contractors with NIGP codes matching procurement notices should be notified of the opportunity. Links at the city of Houston SPD website to visit:
- Strategic Procurement, Existing Buyer Login – to create a web account (required before supplier registration) and to proceed to supplier registration.
- Strategic Procurement Buyer Groups – List of the SPD buyer group contact information. Procurement opportunities exceeding >$50,000.
- Citywide Departmental Purchasing Unit (DPU) Contact list. Also includes Procurement opportunities <$50,000.)
- Formal Bids and Requests for Proposals (RFPs)
State of Louisiana:
When the Governor of Louisiana declares a disaster, the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) activates the Louisiana Business Emergency Operations Center (LABEOC) for disaster response and recovery. Companies registered with LABEOC will be notified of needs as they arise. The LA BEOC, located at 635 Cajundome Boulevard, Abdalla Hall, Lafayette, LA (in the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Research Park) serves as the alternate State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in the event the primary SEOC located in Baton Rouge is incapacitated or is unable to activate due to a disaster requiring the evacuation of the Baton Rouge area. Click here to Register with LABEOC.
The State of Louisiana, Office of State Purchasing, posts all its open bids on the Louisiana Procurement and Contract Network (LaPAC) website. LaPAC is part of LaGOV. Click here to register with LaPAC.
State of Florida: The Florida Emergency Supplier Network (FESN), run through the main procurement agency (Florida Department of Management Services), coordinates supplier information for state and local agencies by:
- Identifying and grouping needed commodities and services by categories
- Recruiting suppliers to be a resource for the purchase of products and services during declared emergencies
- Obtaining information from suppliers including their product lists, inventory information, company profile, emergency operations capabilities, emergency and off-hours contact information
- Issuing a certificate to FESN suppliers as participants in the Florida Emergency Supplier Network
- Collecting and organizing supplier information and make it accessible to state and local purchasing professionals during emergencies.
Some Florida local government agencies also have disaster / emergency vendor registrations. Visit specific Florida County websites for more information.