Continuity of Operations Planning
The need for continuity of operations planning (COOP) is particularly important for organizations that serve at-risk populations. At-risk populations may be highly dependent on those services and have no other outlet to provide critical care.
Local health departments should, as an essential service to county residents, develop robust COOP plans. An Agreement Addenda between the North Carolina Division of Public Health and local health departments released in 2009 requires that all local health departments in North Carolina have a continuity of operations plan (for pandemic influenza) in place by May 2011.
Ten Tips for Local Health Departments to Simplify the COOP Planning Process
From the Montgomery County Advanced Practice Center for Public Health Emergency Preparedness & Response
- Have public health leadership make COOP a priority for the department.
- Designate a facilitator to initiate and lead the COOP process. This person must be given the authority and responsibility to move people through the process, assure feedback, and compile the COOP into one document.
- Predetermine meeting times and place(s) until the plan is completed. Be vigilant and stick to a schedule.
- Bring to the table staff members who make critical program decisions to identify services.
- Utilize a group process to identify program services. This may allow for discussion and input from others, and foster agreement as well.
- Identify and prioritize services. COOP planning is selecting the essential normal everyday program services that need to continue during a specific emergency event. COOP is not an emergency response plan.
- Categorize and group services together as much as possible. This will help to simplify and streamline program services.
- Reduce or remove as many services as possible. This is extremely important and necessary in order to increase personnel in services that will need to be reinforced, and to determine how many staff may be available to be re-directed to other activities to mitigate the emergency.
- Identify employees in the succession plan who have the knowledge base and skills to move into a leadership position. This may or may not be based on job title or seniority.
- Assure staff that what everyone does day-to-day is important! During an emergency, staff may have to "let go" of some tasks, and their jobs may be different.