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Global Security Solutions:An Interview with Joel Yonkman
Written by Trysta Herzog

In a world with increasing natural and man-made disasters, organizations on local and federal levels are looking to experienced and capable companies in the training and consulting fields of emergency management. Joel Yonkman, director of operations at Michigan-based Emergency Response and Global Security Solutions (ERGSS), says his company can offer that and more. He sat down with Inside Homeland Security® to explain the importance of their work and how they have become a "one-stop shop for emergency response organizations."

What sparked the foundation for Emergency Response and Global Security Solutions?

The way that it started was with a group of folks with significant emergency management and response backgrounds considered experts in their fields traveling around the country and delivering education to response organizations across the country on behalf of the government. We would go out and train first response organizations in all disciplines throughout the country in various aspects of emergency response and management. Being representatives of the government, the scope of what we could do was very limited. We would end up getting a lot of folks coming up to us after a class or a course and say, "Hey, that's great information and we understand it, but we really don't know how to apply it," or "We'd like to take this information and develop it into [an] emergency operations plan." After years of providing training we realized we could put our skills to better use by providing additional services outside of what was allowed through our contract for training. As a result, I ended up creating the company and began to work with first response organizations around the world to provide services meeting the specific needs of each organization.

Yonkman went on to explain that the company was divided based on where they saw their clients could benefit from ERGSS the most, composing of three categories: training, consulting, and special operational support.

By leveraging our vast network of subject matter experts we can offer customized training in areas such as police, fire, EMS, and public health. Part of our consulting division looks at assisting organizations in the development of cutting edge and functional emergency operations and business continuity plans. Finally, we offer our subject matter experts to clients to provide unsurpassed operational support and services. For example, we had numerous people deployed to the BP oil spill that were in command-level positions in which we were involved in writing emergency operations plans while others were involved in demobilization and resource tracking of thousands of personnel and pieces of equipment, stretching across three states as well as ocean bound assets.

We developed the company under the premise that we would be a one-stop shop for emergency response organizations. We have a very vast network of people from all first-response disciplines around the world. Regardless of the size or type of project, whether operational, planning, or training, you are provided a team of subject matter experts that fit the requirements and objectives of each organization and project. That was one of the founding philosophies of the company that we always follow and take a great deal of pride in.

In addition to their national efforts in the United States, ERGSS is also involved in overseas endeavors as well­—with a base of operations located in the Eastern European nation of Kosovo.

What kinds of services do you provide overseas?

We offer all of the same services that we offer in the United States. We offer various types of operational services such as incident management, security services, and bodyguard services like we offer in the state of Texas. In addition, we offer custom training and consulting services such as emergency operational plan and business continuity plan development. Looking to broaden their business opportunities, Yonkman pointed to their overseas growth as a way to branch out.

Part of our plan (for expansion), at this point, is continue our training and consulting, with an emphasis in 2012 to grow our security services in the state of Texas and expand into other states within the continental U.S. We will continue to operate and expand services abroad in the European market.

The client list for ERGSS runs the gamut from local to federal government, many of which get grants for training and consulting through homeland security and other public-funded grants. The company has encountered many types of agencies through their much-needed services.

Who benefits from your services?

We've been subcontracted to provide services to private, as well as governmental, organizations. These organizations range in size from the local level up to, and including, the federal government. Our staff has been involved in the response to and planning for local incidents, as well as those of national significance.

What kind of services would local-level clients be looking for from ERGSS?

On a local level, all of our services are scalable to meet the complexity of each individual client's needs. We service many local private and governmental organizations, whether it is our custom training, consulting, or operational services. One area that is catching a lot of visibility right now is Business Continuity Planning.

What is Business Continuity Planning?

Business Continuity really started in the IT realm—what do we do when your computers and e-mail are not working or you get a virus? Can we back it up at another location? How do we keep things going with our reliance on technology? Well now this concept has taken on an entirely different meaning because now many people have recognized it's not just IT, it's everything.

Outside of IT, Business Continuity Planning is the development of a plan that allows for continued operations in the wake of a disaster. This plan is developed with a focus of ensuring day to day operational activity will continue regardless of what happens. For private companies this is crucial to their survival. How do you ensure your financial solvency and minimize your downtime? What we do is come in and assess your hazards as well as the impact each would have on your day-to-day operations. Once completed we develop a plan and build redundancies to ensure the production quotas can be met in as short of a time as possible based on the assessment and the needs of the client. For example, let's say you have your main office with 500 employees, a product you produce, production quotas and deadlines you have to meet to ensure your profit margins, and one horrific night a tornado comes through and completely wipes out your building. In other words we develop your plan B.

In addition to continuity planning we can provide incident management services. For example, in the wake of a disaster, we can send a team to liaison with local emergency agencies to make sure your issues are addressed. Again, these are people who can talk the language and know what to say, as well as who to say it to minimize the impact of your personal disaster.

ERGSS Contact Information

Michigan office: 3970 US 131 South / Suite C #260 / Cadillac, MI 49601
Phone: 616.334.5204 / Fax: 888.522.6978 / Email: info@ergss.com / Website: www.ergss.com

Joel Yonkman, CHS-III will be a panelist at the 2012 Executive Summit (ES-21) as part of the breakout session titled, Private Sector Emergency Preparedness and Responses. The panel will discuss communication, cooperation, and collaboration with local, state, and federal "first responders." It is scheduled to take place on Friday, October 19th from 10:15 a.m to 12:15 p.m.

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