Continuity of Operations Planning or “COOP”

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The key to COOP is the identification of the Essential Functions (EFs) and planning to ensure that those functions can be continued throughout, or resumed rapidly after, a disruption of normal activities. Since COOP addresses and prioritizes all governmental functions, the plan requires a significant commitment to both develop and maintain.

What is COOP?

FEMA defines the Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) as an internal effort within individual components of a government to ensure the capability exists to continue essential component functions across a wide range of potential emergencies, including localized acts of nature, accidents, and technological or attack-related emergencies. It enables governmental departments and agencies to ensure that their Mission Essential Functions (MEFs) continue to be performed in the event of such emergency situations.

The key to COOP is the identification of the Essential Functions (EFs) and planning to ensure that those functions can be continued throughout, or resumed rapidly after, a disruption of normal activities.  Since COOP addresses and prioritizes all governmental functions, the plan requires a significant commitment to both develop and maintain.

What is the difference between COOP and DRP (Disaster Recovery Planning?)

Traditionally, DRP has been focused on IT services, including data back up and restoration.  COOP takes a holistic view of an event causing operational/service interruption and encompasses the support logistics, including people, facilities, vendors) as well as IT services and data.

What is the framework of COOP?

FEMA has developed a “Continuity Plan Template for Non-Federal Governments” that can be found on the FEMA website.  It provides the framework for COOP planning that addresses the key planning elements necessary to support effective continuity operations. Key information required for the COOP include the following:

  •  Essential Functions
  • Resource Requirements  for Essential Functions
  • Vital Records Management, including Systems and Equipment
  • Internal and External Contacts
  • Orders of Succession
  • Delegations of Authority
  • Alternate Facilities
  • Continuity Modes of Communication

COOP Concept of Operations:

The COOP addresses four phases in its continuity coverage.  These phases cover the cycle of actions through activation and returning to normal operations:

  1. Phase I – Readiness and Preparedness
  2. Phase II – Activation and Relocation: plans, procedures, and schedules to transfer activities, personnel, records, and equipment to alternate facilities are activated
  3. Phase III – Continuity Operations: full execution of essential operations at alternate operating facilities is commenced
  4. Phase IV – Reconstitution: operations at alternate facility are terminated and normal operations resume

COOP Development

As COOP covers all essential functions of government, a comprehensive COOP requires each department to assess its operations, gather necessary information and document their plan. This undertaking diverts resources that are supporting normal departmental operations to perform this additional task.  The process also requires the assessment of cross-departmental dependencies (such as IT, accounting, HR), and the prioritization of their resources across the government’s EFs.

Because of the size and complexity of this undertaking, the development of a COOP requires training and guidance to all departments regarding the development of the plan and its components.  Additionally, COOP development requires coordination support, especially for cross-departmental requirements and prioritization, as well as overall project management to keep the effort on schedule across the range of departments. 

Ongoing Maintenance and Exercises

No plan can be considered effective without continued updates and periodic exercises.  This ongoing activity and the associated resources should be incorporated into annual operational plans and budgets.

Additional Information

For additional information contact your Regional COOP Program Manager. The COOP POC/Regional COOP Program Manager is the individual responsible for coordinating your areas COOP-related activities and is the principal liaison between your organization and the National Continuity Programs (NCP) Directorate. Another source of information would be the web-based independent study course on COOP (IS 546a and IS 547) that FEMA offers online. Additional information can be found on the FEMA website including CGC 1: States, Territories, Tribal, and Local Government Jurisdictions and Private Sector Organizations and  NSPD-51/HSPD-20 – National Continuity Policy www.fema.gov/about/org/ncp/coop/planning.sht.

For additional assistance in developing your agency’s COOP, contact Winbourne Consulting at info@w-llc.com

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