Why you should have a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP)

In addition to having a current Emergency Operations Plan designed to respond to emergency incidents, local government should be positioned to respond to threats on its own operations through a well-defined Continuity of Operations Plan.  Known as a “COOP”, the Federal Continuity Director 1 (FCD 1) is a 2017 directive released by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that provides guidance to all federal organizations for developing continuity program plans and capabilities.  FCD 1 also serves as guidance to state, local and tribal governments.  Effective continuity planning and programs identify and facilitate the performance of identified Primary Mission Essential Functions (PMEF’s) during all-hazards emergencies as well as other situations that may disrupt normal operations.

Continuity of Operations plans have been part of the U.S. Government planning and operations since President Dwight D. Eisenhower when the planning surrounded the survival of essential services after a nuclear war.  The very first time the federal plan was put into effect outside of exercises was just after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Local government (LG) truly is no different than any business that provides services to a base of customers. The ability to identify mission-critical functions to provide on-going operations before, during and post incident is often called resilience.  It is the capability and capacity of a LG to endure environmental changes without failure by temporarily adapting to new ways of working  all the way to permanent operational changes.  Not unlike any private sector business or service provider, the process of creating systems of prevention and recovery to deal with potential threats to internal operations is expected by the residents and part of responsible risk management approach by local government leaders.

Any event that could negatively impact local government operations should be included in the plan such as supply chain interruption, damage to critical infrastructure, loss of personnel, loss or interruption of technology, transportation interruptions and more.  The initial analysis consists of:

  • Threat and Risk Analysis
  • Impact Analysis, and
  • Impact Scenarios

Local governments internal risk assessment should create emergency planning and systems that touch on the entire disaster cycle or event that is creating the COOP implementation.  The many tasks and functions of local governments continuity planning may  be summarized as a cycle.  As a service provider you prepare your organization for emergencies and disasters that affect your operations, respond to those internal essential function needs, and try to reduce losses long-term.  Emergency leadership teams must be identified, put communication system and backups in place to support operations, determine policies and procedures, and more, followed by practicing the plan.

The bottom line is responsible risk management of internal governmental operations protects your staff, your infrastructure, and services you provide.  It acts as a responsible approach to provide an agency with continued operations and sets an example for all of the stakeholders within the ecosystem of a community to follow.

For more information and for assistance with COOP implementation, contact us at info@govhrusa.com

By: Tim Sashko, Vice President