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 recover 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 your PTAC: There are never shortcuts in government contracting. Your local Procurement Technical Assistance Center (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. Click here to find your PTAC.
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 “firstname.lastname@example.org”; 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
Establish relationships with municipal and county governments, as well as state procurement offices. 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 is entirely 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. So make sure that you are registered in any applicable state/local databases – not only those local to you, but those in areas you might travel to in response to a disaster.
For help in positioning yourself to take advantage of disaster response contracting opportunities, contact your local PTAC.
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Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs)
Ninety-six PTACs – with over 300 local offices – form a nationwide network of procurement professionals dedicated procurement professionals working to help local businesses compete successfully in the government marketplace. Funded under the Defense Logistics Agency’s Procurement Technical Assistance Program through cooperative agreements with state and local governments and non-profit organizations, PTACs are the bridge between buyer and supplier, bringing to bear their knowledge of both government contracting and the capabilities of contractors to maximize fast, reliable service to our government with better quality and at lower costs.
PTACs provide a wide range of government contracting help – most free of charge!
Assistance topics include (but are not limited to!):
- Determining Suitability for Contracting
- Securing Necessary Registrations (including SAM registration)
- SDB, 8(a), HUBzone and other certifications
- Researching Procurement Histories
- Identifying Bid Opportunities
- Proposal Preparation
- Contract Performance Issues
- Preparing for Audit