Disaster Contracting Tips for Small Businesses

Natural Disasters can be a time of crisis or opportunity for small business government contractors.Disaster pic

The Thomas T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, passed in 2007, requires FEMA to contract with businesses located in the affected area when feasible and practicable, which brings unexpected and often substantial contracting opportunities in the wake of a disaster.

FEMA needs certain types of items most frequently following a disaster, such as office supplies, dumpsters, shredders and other disposal equipment, janitorial supplies, locks, portable toilets, hand washing stations and sometimes material moving equipment such as forklifts. In many areas they need certain services such as certified translators.

If the goods or services you provide are relevant to disaster response, the following steps can help you to position yourself to take advantage of such contracting opportunities when a disaster strikes.

  • 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.
  • Be aware that, like most federal buyers, FEMA buyers often perform quick and dirty market research via Google. 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. Also, check your SAM (System for Award Management) and DSBS (Dynamic Small Business Search) profiles periodically to ensure that your status is “active”, the contact information is current, and your list of capabilities is complete.
  • FEMA buys some things at the region level and some at the national level. Establish contracting relationships with the appropriate offices ahead of disasters. Buyers often turn to the contractors they know rather than to local businesses.
  • Never rest on special databases or designations. FEMA and other federal buyers don’t necessarily use the Disaster Relief designation in SAM or the GSA Disaster Response designation. The FEMA Industry Liaison Program (http://www.fema.gov/about-industry-liaison-program) is only one point of access for vendors to FEMA buyers, and not necessarily the primary one. Do not depend on these alone for visibility during a disaster.

Your local PTAC can assist you – most often free of charge – with any of the steps outlined above. And of course, don’t neglect to take the necessary steps to ensure that your business can “weather” the disaster in the first place; see my colleague Liz Kallen’s post on that topic.

For help in positioning yourself to take advantage of disaster response contracting opportunities, contact your local PTAC.


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Pre-Award Tips for Potential Government Contractors

Have you ever wondered what advice a Contracting Officer would give you?

Carter Merkle, of Oklahoma’s Bid Assistance Network, shares the following Pre-award tips provided at a briefing by Tinker Air Force Base. Taking these to heart can help you avoid some of the most common mistakes made by small business vendors – mistakes that result in lost contract awards every day.

  • Read the solicitation carefully and do so prior to the pre-proposal meeting. Each solicitation is unique. Identify any provisions which seem unclear or about which you have any questions. Take all instructions seriously, including details such as page limits, formatting requirements, and submission procedures.
  • Ask questions during the solicitation phase and ensure that you understand all of the requirements.
  • Know which evaluation criteria are more important than others. If you are uncertain – ask.
  • Know the basis of award as it is discussed in the solicitation. Is it “Lowest Price Technically Acceptable” (LPTA) – or is it the “Trade-Off Method”? Will the award be made with – or without – discussions? Depending upon the specifics, you may – or may not – have the opportunity to improve your proposal during the evaluation phase.
  • Provide past experience relevant to the Statement of Work/Specifications.
  • Consider Joint Ventures or Teaming as a subcontractor with another firm to gain experience in a specific field, with a specific agency, or in contracting overall.
  • Know that Contracting Officers take Past Performance very seriously. They will make phone calls to confirm your performance record.
  • Highlight any deficiencies in your ability to perform the Statement of Work up front and explain how they will be mitigated.
  • Make sure that you understand the risks if you are awarded the contract – both to the government and to your business.
  • Do not fill your proposal with “fluff”; the source-selection board does not want to see marketing material/language. Make sure you provide all of the information required by the solicitation; anything missing will result in a deficiency.

For help in understanding and responding effectively to solicitations, contact your local PTAC.

Need help understanding contract requirements?
Contact your PTAC today!