Firm builds public/private bridge

A California technology company has created a for-profit policy and research center to try to bridge gaps in emergency management and business continuity between the public and private sectors.

El Segundo, Calif.-based Candle Corp. created the aptly named National Center for Crisis and Continuity Coordination, or NC4 (www.nc4.us), which plans to:

* Promote public-private collaboration in research, policy, strategy and planning.

* Provide education and exercises.

* Offer technology solutions to enhance regional crisis and continuity management.

"When [Sept. 11] hit, one of the biggest questions was, 'What do we do with our people, what do we tell our people, do we send them home, do we keep them, do we evacuate them, if we evacuate them do we tell local public-sector counterparts that we're doing that, or do we ask them for their advice?'" said Jim Montagnino, NC4 general manager. "And those sorts of things we saw as a gap between the two."

Most private-sector entities think about crisis management and business continuity, but never put it into practice, he said. To that end, NC4 will facilitate a tabletop exercise in the Los Angeles area — including the city, county, state and local businesses — July 26.

NC4 will provide technology, developed by Candle, to help with the exercise. Montagnino didn't provide specifics and said additional announcements will be made regarding the Web-based technology.

"It's technology that allows secure communities to create, either dynamically or by pre-defining them, communities where they can share information in a secure fashion and collaborate on what's going on and where they need to go, or how they need to react to different situations," he said. In addition to southern California, NC4 has targeted two other regional markets: the New York City area — primarily its financial services sector — and the Washington, D.C., area. He said initial discussions have begun at the federal level as well.

NC4 is also partnering with several companies: Capco, a global financial services consultant, is the group's continuity management partner. E Team Inc., a provider of emergency- and event-management software, and Boden/Lee Consulting are its crisis management partners.

Montagnino said there are advantages and disadvantages to being a for-profit organization.

"There's always the skepticism associated with somebody trying to make a profit on what they're doing on the one hand," he said. "On the other hand, because we are a for-profit corporation, we're able to make investments and do things independently. So we're developing software and a solution based upon what we believe there to be a marketplace for today as opposed to...a number of folks that are talking to the public-sector side about what they can do, but aren't going to do anything until they get a dollar of funding."

He said Candle chief executive officer Aubrey Chernick is the driving force behind NC4, which is based in Reston, Va. The company helped the Los Angeles city and county "kind of pro bono" with the Year 2000 date-change issue, he said. Interest in working with the public sector surfaced again after Sept. 11.

Chernick "saw...an opportunity for Candle to use some of what it had from a technology basis, especially when it comes to integrating disparate applications and the need to coordinate and...fill that gap between the public and private sectors," Montagnino said.

Among its experts, NC4 recently named Richard Andrews, a member of President Bush's Homeland Security Advisory Council, as its principal consultant on emergency management. Previously, Andrews was head of the Governor's Office of Emergency Services in California and has served as a consultant on terrorism policy and information technology to the National Governors Association.

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