For any business, private organization or public agency continuing operations after an emergency event is imperative for their survival or effectiveness. Developing a Continuity of Operations (COOP) Program is a good business practice because it enables organizations, agencies, and businesses to continue providing their respective services after any natural, man-made, technological or national security emergencies. The continuation of services by businesses and organizations is achieved through the use of a Continuity of Operations Plan and a Continuity of Operations Program. The COOP Program is responsible for the development, maintenance, training, and exercise of the COOP Plan. The COOP plan is an active document that is developed to ensure that the entity has the capabilities of continuing operations after a service disruption.
When developing a Continuity of Operations Plan, the team or individual in charge of developing this important document must have the following objectives in mind:
- Ensure continued performance of essential functions. I want to emphasize that the purpose of a COOP Program is to provide continuous service of essential functions. This means that planners must identify which functions are essential and non essential in their respective operations and to their customers or beneficiaries.
- Reduce the loss of life/minimize damage.
- Establish a clear line of succession of key personnel. In the event of an emergency, we must have clearly defined who will assume a specific position in the event that the individual holding that position is unable to carry out his responsibilities. Also we must identify who will be the authority to activate the COOP Plan.
- Mitigate disruptions of operations.
- Protect essential assets.
- Achieve a timely recovery. Recovering or the reconstitution of operations after an event has concluded is as the initial continuation of services. The purpose is to provide continuous operations of essential functions at any moment.
- Maintain a Training Program also referred as Test, Training, and Exercise (TT&E) Program. After developing our COOP Plan, it is of equal importance to test how effective our plan really is and to identify and correct any weaknesses in the plan. Testing our plan can be accomplished through drills, joint exercises, training of personnel, and the testing of equipment and facilities.
An effective COOP Plan will have an alternate location identified that will be used in case it is necessary for the business, agency or organization to move from its current location in order to effectively provide its essential services. The capabilities of the entity of actually moving to the alternate facility need to be tested as part of the COOP Program in order to ensure that it serves its appropriate purpose.
COOP Plans must:
- Be capable of implementation at any time and under any circumstances.
- Be capable of guiding the entity to full operations within 12 hours of an incident happening.
- Be capable of sustainment of operations for 30 days.
- Include a regular TT&E Program.
During the assignment of personnel to the COOP Planning team, managers and supervisors must take into consideration the personal and professional abilities of the team members. You want to have a well balanced team that will be able to produce an effective plan. These personnel will be responsible for risk analysis, identifying essential and support functions and developing what will serve as the backbone of operations during emergency events.
The implementation of a COOP Program in our entities will provide customers and citizens with that added assurance that essential services will continue under any catastrophic or non catastrophic event. Proper planning and testing will lead to proper services under any circumstances.