Regardless of circumstance or event, be it flood, fire, tornado or terror, the American Red Cross has always been there. It does not matter your gender, race, religion or condition – if they can get to you, they are there.

That’s a helluva metric for anyone or any organization to aspire to hold, but when you do it as well as they do in this country and around the world, it is even more impressive. Taking it one step further and wading into an area where few have ventured to travel probably makes you wonder about their sanity, but with the release of the Ready Rating Program, the American Red Cross has once again shown their capacity to do just about anything they set their mind too.

Started several years ago out of the St. Louis Chapter of the American Red Cross and with the generous sponsorship of the Anheuser-Busch Corporation, the Ready Rating Program puts in the hands of the private sector the very tools and techniques by which any enterprise – be it large or small – can prepare itself for all-hazards that could impact it. In sharing those steps, the St. Louis Red Cross Chapter also helped developed a scoring tool to assess the performance of a company so they could measure their progress as they addressed preparedness needs.

The end result of their notable efforts was a program that is accessible, understandable and measurable. More importantly, it puts the companies that are using it on a better glide path to endure events that could truly be catastrophic to its operations and employees.

By itself, having such a program would be a notable achievement, but in recognizing that it’s great to share a good thing, the Ready Rating Program has now gone national and expanded to include schools in preparedness as well.

With the on-going support of Anheuser-Busch and Sam’s Club, it will no longer be only the businesses in St. Louis that can take advantage of this program. Any company or school from any location can have the best of all partners in getting guidance in preparing for emergencies. Talk about a landmark achievement.

When you compare this effort to those of DHS in its Private Sector Preparedness (PS-Prep) Program, it’s not even a fair comparison. Despite having the force of legislation behind it (and unfortunately a lack of appropriated resources to support its efforts), PS-Prep remains mired in bureaucratic logjams, internal turf battles and suffers most of all from leadership that exemplifies lip service and actionable indifference to making the program all that it could be.

As someone who championed private sector preparedness issues when I was part of DHS many years ago, I say without hesitation that the Department has utterly failed in its ability to execute this effort. I say that with a great deal of frustration because I know there are some tremendously good people that are part of this program too. But I do not lay the blame for this failure at their feet. Rather, that blame goes to the top of the leadership food chain where carefully crafted words for press releases, Congressional hearing statements and public remarks seem to have more intrinsic value than real measurable and demonstrable actions.

While the Ready Rating Program conforms to the goals and tenets of the PS-Prep Program, by avoiding the whole operational morass that the PS-Prep Program has become, the Red Cross goes directly to the parties that are looking for the help they need to get ready for whatever might come their way. Nor does their program require a litany of consultants to understand it, a team of attorneys to tell you what you can and can’t do, or some special appropriation to make it happen.

It simply puts information and assessment tools in the hands of people more interested in the preparedness and survival of their individual enterprises and schools than navel gazing to see who is going to do something next or when the general counsel’s office finally gets around to reading the paperwork.

That by itself is another accomplishment, but when you’re in the business of saving lives and getting people ready for whatever might lie ahead, it’s important to value action over inertia. Lives and long-term survival are depending upon it, and it’s easy to see where those are valued most by those who act accordingly.

Rich Cooper blogs primarily on emergency preparedness and response, management issues related to the Department of Homeland Security, and the private sector’s role in homeland security. Read More