The Lowdown on Buy Boards

Get certified ahead of time as an approved disaster recovery contractor or vendor

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The best time to get on a contracting authority’s radar at a disaster recovery site is not after the disaster has already happened. Contractors must proactively apply/register to become an approved vendor on the emergency services equivalent of construction and non-emergency contractor “buy boards.” 

Properly referred to as Cooperative Procurement programs, there are many benefits to local, regional, state and federal governments for using them. These include reduction of staff procurement time, cost savings through volume price discounts, leveraged concessions, and reduced risk through extended warranties and insurance provisions. Not all buy boards or contractors taking part in them offer such concessions and warranties, but they are often factors in such participation.

Whether you’re a veteran industry contractor or just trying to break into this contracting niche, it pays to know the various types of contracting certification authorities, whose call lists you need to be on if you hope to gain post-disaster contracts, and how to get on those lists.

These potential contractor/vendor lists/boards/co-ops vary by region, site authority and disaster type, like natural vs. human-caused disasters. That means there are many for potential contractors to become aware of, learn how to use, and join. Let’s first look at the three main types of procurement there are, and how you may fit into each.


Not every state recognizes or has the same names for these three types of procurement agreements, but most recognize some form of similar categories. They include the following:

  • Joint cooperative procurements (limited) – Solicitations in which participating governmental bodies or cooperative procurement groups to the contract are named in the procurement and resulting contract. Use is limited to identified participants only. Other governmental bodies may not later use the resulting contract. Joint cooperative procurements require participants to enter into a formal intergovernmental agreement, with an administrator executing the agreement on behalf of the cooperative procurement group.
  • Permissive cooperative procurements (unlimited) – Contracting governmental bodies are not specifically named individually in the procurement and resulting contract. The contract requires contractors to extend the terms, conditions and pricing of the original contract to an administrator and all interested participants. Participants may not make material changes to the contract terms, conditions or prices.
  • Interstate cooperative procurements (hybrid) – A form of permissive or joint Cooperative Procurement in which an administrator, or one or more participants, are located outside of the contract’s originating state. For an agency to use an interstate cooperative procurement, the administrator must be a governmental body authorized under the laws, rules or regulations of that jurisdiction to enter into public contracts.

Obviously, most disaster recovery contracts will be one of the first two types because the physical scope of the cleanup and restoration is limited to a local or state jurisdiction. However, inter-regional and interstate efforts, such as those required for a very large natural disaster such as a hurricane or multistate severe weather outbreak, may require the third type.


A fourth type of disaster cleanup and recovery contract is the strictly local, one-time, spontaneous kind that typically originates in a heavily rural, more sparsely populated region of limited geographic scope. This likely covers the greatest percentage of the United States, in which small communities have tiny governance budgets and emergency management agencies that typically consist of all or mostly unpaid volunteers. These areas tend not to have the resources for much disaster preplanning, and most likely respond to disasters on a one-off basis, relying on state-level intervention using official disaster area declarations to help them cope with large or more devastating disasters.

This type may be most appealing to contractors just getting started and needing to cut their teeth on smaller, more easily managed scenarios. Such situations permit new contractors to gain experience and knowledge that can’t be taught in simulated training before attempting to tackle larger contracts. This is not only smart strategy on the tactical side, but also allows contractors to gradually build their reputations and figure out their service specialties at a more manageable level, while getting to know who’s who among local movers and shakers.

Being savvy about both buy boards/procurement program registration monitoring and establishing ongoing relationships with local officials is important, especially if the contractor is rural and/or woman-, minority- or veteran-owned, because those companies do garner preference in those areas which still honor affirmative action requirements.

In a future column, we’ll discuss some of the more prominent, typical cooperative procurement programs, and what’s entailed in getting registered with them.


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