- Associated Press - Monday, June 22, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A state program intended to strengthen disaster response is adding a credentialing system to make it easier for certain private-sector partners to deliver supplies and medication in restricted areas during emergencies.

Officials say private-sector partners that choose to participate in the Emergency Partner Credentialing System will be able to seek free credentials vetted through Ohio Homeland Security, and then law enforcement officers or others controlling access to a disaster area would be able to use a shared database to verify specific credentials for people associated with those partners.

For example, it could help a pharmacy chain more easily get needed medications to stranded residents or aid a retailer in delivering stockpiles of bottled water.

“You don’t want that to get clogged at a checkpoint because of some questions of whether or not someone should have access,” Public Safety Director John Born said.

The state is recruiting participants and hopes to have the credentialing system in place by the start of next year. Some people, such as utility workers, may have credentials allowing for access in case of multiple emergencies, while others may be granted access only for a specific incident and location, Born said.

He is scheduled to discuss the credentialing and other efforts Tuesday at Cleveland State University during a regional meeting for the Ohio Public Private Partnership, known as OP3. He said the credentialing idea was suggested by a participant in a similar meeting last year in central Ohio, and the system has been developed by existing technology staff for the state.

OP3 was created in 2013 to improve disaster response after storms left hundreds of thousands of people without electricity during a summer heat wave the previous year. The program is intended to boost cooperation and help everyone get things back to normal when a disaster occurs.

It now includes more than 175 businesses, state and local government agencies, colleges and associations, according to the Ohio Department of Public Safety.

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