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Procurement’s emergency role

There’s nothing like adversity to highlight the importance of essential services


March 2, 2018
by Michael Power

From the February 2018 print edition

Michael Power is editor of PurchasingB2B.

This year plays host to a series of rather notorious anniversaries in the history of Canadian emergencies. In January 1998, 20 years ago, both southern Quebec and eastern Ontario experienced five days of up to 100mm of freezing rain and ice pellets. About half of Quebec’s population and over one million people in Ontario went without power—some of them for several weeks. At least 35 Canadians lost their lives because of the catastrophe.

This year is also the 15th anniversary of the northeastern blackout of 2003 that affected much of Ontario and the eastern seaboard of the US. Just after 4:10pm on August 14 2003, a power outage throughout Ontario, and northeastern and Midwestern US saw 10 million Ontarians and 45 million Americans in the dark for days and. In some regions, the outage lasted a week or two.

A third such observance is due to the five-year anniversary of the Alberta floods. In the days leading up early June 2013, Calgary saw heavy rainfall that lead to catastrophic flooding. Overall, 32 local states of emergency were declared and 28 emergency operation centres activated. Over 100,000 people were displaced during the emergency.

I don’t mean to create a heavy mood. Rather, I wish to call attention to the critical and potentially life-saving part that procurement plays in such situations. The role of first responders, healthcare professionals and others in emergency situations can’t be overstated. Their contributions to maintaining order, getting the power on and cleaning up are essential, their value incalculable.

But procurement is there too. In this issue, we decided to take a look at procurement’s function during emergency situations. During adversity, it’s essential that procurement be able to get the goods and services needed to keep communities going.

Our public procurement article (see page 33) looks at the role of procurement in such situations. The article touches on how procurement helps, what happens to standard tendering procedures during emergencies and other points.

There’s nothing like adversity to highlight the importance of essential services, and past experiences can be a teacher for the present and future. Including procurement on emergency planning committees and disaster response teams is essential. Instituting emergency procedures so that procurement can continue to function in the absence of the usual due process is also important. Let’s not forget how significant that role is, or the importance of ensuring preparation.

On another note, we’ve decided to place our event, ProcureTech, on hold. The event was scheduled to take place this September 10 and 11. Please stay tuned for updated details in the near future.

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