All these recent natural disasters may have you thinking about disaster planning. We can all learn a great deal from these occurrences. Having an active COOP—or continuity of operations plan will help you allow you to forestall your response to any interruption of operations, whether a manmade or weather disaster or just a minor disturbance like a few hours of power failure in your area.
COOP (Continuity of Operations Planning) is a United States Federal initiative, required by Presidential directive, to ensure that government agencies are able to continue performing essential functions under a broad range of emergency circumstances. However, COOP planning isn’t just for the government. Any organization that must provide for the health and safety of others in an emergency situation should have a COOP plan in place.
The following components are what to include in a COOP plan:
Mission Essential Functions
Identifying mission essential functions is the foundation from which all other components of the plan are developed. Any function not deemed to be essential should be deferred until additional personnel and/or resources become available.
Orders of Succession and Delegation of Authority
Decide who’s in charge in case of an emergency, and identify orders of succession for agency heads and other key leaders. Ensure that those identified are prepared to perform emergency duties.
How can you get in touch with agency personnel, clients, and the community? Consideration should be given to the full spectrum of technological advances now available for communication, including landlines, cellular, emergency satellite Internet, wireless, e-mail, radio, rally points, etc.
Vital Records and Databases
The COOP plan should account for the identification and protection of vital records and databases at primary and alternate facilities. To the extent possible, agencies should provide for off-site storage of duplicate records, off-site back up or electronic records and databases, and pre-positioning of vital records and databases at the alternate facility. A common solution is co-locating your server on a private network.
Prepare all furniture, appliances and other free-standing objects so that they are adequately secured. Clearly mark gas and water shut-off valves and post legible instructions on how to shut off each one; keep a set of tools handy to facilitate prompt gas shut-off. List clear directions on accessing your emergency communication tools such as mobile satellite Internet service which can go with you anywhere to provide a vital communications link to emergency services and outside information.
The COOP plan should designate an alternate operating facility with sufficient space, equipment, infrastructure systems, and logistical support to maintain operations for up to 30 days. Physical security and personnel access control measures should be taken into account.
Training, Testing, and COOP Plan Maintenance
Your COOP plan is not any good if your staff is not familiar with it. Be sure to train on your plan and test it out (and implement revisions as necessary). Review your COOP plan at least annually to incorporate new technologies, procedures, contact information, etc.
If your government agency still uses a dial-up network, consider changing over to a satellite communications network. Unlike land-based systems that can go down when the local infrastructure fails, satellite Internet COOP solutions will give you the ability to communicate with emergency services, employees, and get outside information.
Satellite Internet supports today’s broadband applications that require greater bandwidth like video and high-speed data transmission making it an effective solution for sending and receiving information. It can be used as a primary connection for a fast, reliable connection to the Internet or as a backup solution for when your primary connection goes down.
Mobility is key in a crisis situation. Satellite Internet-based communications solutions are transportable so they can go anywhere, providing you with a reliable phone or Internet connection to stay in touch.
Having redundant services in place will facilitate getting back to business as soon as possible. Satellite Internet offers the ability to store information off-site as a data backup measure.