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Using the Corporate Emergency Access System to ensure access to your business after a disaster

In the hours following a disaster, it would be great to be able to re-enter your building, go up to your floors and take care of the issues you realize are necessary to recover operations.  But the fire department and police have cordoned off your building and you are unable to gain access.  Even if the restriction is for only a few hours, that lost time could be critical to your business. The good news is such a capability exists – it’s called the

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Corporate Emergency Access System (CEAS), and was developed to facilitate limited access to buildings and other sites following an incident. 

Assuming there is serious damage or unknown threats within a building, it’s not going to be reopened until the authorities are convinced of its safety.  However, with a CEAS card you have a better chance of gaining entry to your offices.  This article examines the CEAS program, how it can benefit your organization and your company’s business continuity and emergency plans

Benefits of Corporate Emergency Access System

With access to company offices following an emergency possible through CEAS, emergency response and management plans, as well as disaster recovery and business continuity plans can be improved to permit access – even on as limited basis – to address key business activities defined in their emergency plans. 

Among these activities are faster recovery of business operations, recovery of valuable business and financial assets, recovery of critical systems, damage assessments, and stabilizing critical systems and networks. 

The CEAS program has been in effect for over seven years, and has been well received in the private and public sector communities alike.  Is a CEAS card a guarantee that you’ll be able to re-enter your business?  No, especially if law enforcement or other authorities deem the situation unsafe.  Having said that, a CEAS card is certainly an important part of your emergency and BC/DR plans. 

Background of the Corporate Emergency Access System program

The CEAS program was launched in 2004 and has its roots in the Business Network of Emergency Resources, or BNET (www.bnetinc.org).  BNET itself emerged from a 1997-1998 study called the Joint Loss Reduction Partnership (JLRP), funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and conducted by the New York State Office of Emergency Management in partnership with representatives from various New York state-based businesses.

The study analyzed the needs of private-sector businesses following emergencies or disasters. Among the findings was the need for closer collaboration between public and private sector organizations, and, more importantly,  a way for business people to re-enter their offices within specific restricted areas to start recovering their businesses.

The Corporate Emergency Access System process

CEAS is a “pre-event credentialing program” which authenticates key business employees for access to restricted areas following a disaster or serious emergency.  These designated employees carry a secure identification card – their CEAS card – that is recognized by police and other authorities.  CEAS doesn’t work everywhere – municipalities must approve the use of the CEAS program within their jurisdiction.  If a municipality does approve use of CEAS, locals businesses can apply to join the program and receive ID cards for essential employees.

CEAS is activated after local authorities are satisfied that threats to life because of an emergency have been reduced or eliminated.

Four levels of access are possible, according to CEAS and shown in Table 1: 

Table 1 – CEAS Access Levels

CEAS Access Level Situations
Level X: All access prohibited Conditions pose an imminent danger to life and no one is permitted within the designated area.
Level C: Critical industries Critical industries identified by the participating municipality for priority access and are based on the National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) guidelines as well as unique local needs.
Level B: Basic Functions, all companies In addition to Level C employees, essential employees of all companies, with CEAS credentials will be permitted entry, to enable a basic functioning of business operators until the emergency condition ends.
Level A: All permitted/vehicular limitations Conditions require the limitation of vehicular traffic to only Essential Employees.  A CEAS card within a designated emergency zone will be required only for an employee who is driving.  Non-essential employees will be permitted entry if it is made by public transportation, carpooling with an essential employee, or by non-vehicular means.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: CEAS, www.ceas.com

CEAS card examples and pricing are available in the Card Types and Pricing section of the CEAS web site.  Fees from the cards go to BNET, which is uses to administer the CEAS program.  Municipalities pay no fees to BNET for a CEAS program.  

Where is the Corporate Emergency Access System available?

First off, CEAS is only available in certain areas of the country, as indicated in Table 2. 

Table 2 – CEAS Availability

State Municipality
Connecticut Stamford
Massachusetts Boston, Cambridge
Maryland Baltimore
New York Buffalo, New York City (all five boroughs), Erie County, Nassau County, Rockland County, Suffolk County
Pennsylvania Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

 

 

The key activity in launching CEAS is establishing a partnership between the local municipality and BNET.  According to the rules of the CEAS program, the required relationship is called a “partnership”.  This underscores the vision of public/private sector partnerships, which is what initially spurred the development of BNET and the CEAS program.  According to CEAS, three steps are taken to initiate a local CEAS program. 

  1. Execute a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between BNET and the municipality’s government; this establishes CEAS as the municipality’s private sector access control system.
  2. Develop a Plan of Administration (POA) that defines the CEAS program’s operational structure, roles and responsibilities of private and public sector organizations.
  3. Develop a Procedural Enforcement Document to define the enforcement of CEAS by law enforcement personnel. This procedural document becomes part of the public sector agency’s operating procedures.

Source: CEAS, www.ceas.com

Once a CEAS program has been established, the next step is to enroll businesses and relevant service providers in the program.  Potential business candidates next execute a participation agreement and demonstrate proof they have insurance coverage (e.g., general liability, automobile liability).  BNET ultimately reviews and approves new CEAS participants, who can enroll key employees in the program. 

A CEAS Executive Advisory Board (EAB) is also established for the new jurisdiction, consisting of CEAS users from both the public and private sectors.  Meeting quarterly, the EAB oversees the local CEAS program, serves as its advocate, provides guidance, and promotes good public-private sector relationships. 

This was first published in October 2011

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