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Without COOP? The EOP Goes To the Bat With 2 Strikes.

Without COOP? The EOP Goes To the Bat With 2 Strikes.

In a world where disasters occur frequently, a business of any kind should always have "Plan B," or a business continuity plan, already drafted, tested, and available so that you can continue without major interruptions in "Plan A." The business continuity plan is essential, and if it doesn't exist, there is little sense in having an Emergency Operations Plan (EOP), because resources will be unavailable to implement it when the disaster/emergency strikes. This is crucial for public health and primary care clinics, hospitals, EMS providers, and other ESF-8 agencies where every day is high-stress, dealing with normal operations, patients, and the most vulnerable populations. But where do you start?

First let's define what business continuity is according to the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia. They define and describe the term Business Continuity as a mentality or methodology of conducting day-to-day business. It is an "ongoing management-level process to ensure that necessary steps are regularly taken to identify probable accidents, disasters, emergencies, and/or threats. It involves: (1) assessment of the probable effect of such events, (2) development of recovery strategies and plans, and (3) maintenance of their readiness through personnel training and plan testing."

To break this down a little more, Agility Recovery outlines business continuity planning in 10 steps:

1.   Assess your risks – both internally and externally.
2.   Define & Document your critical business functions.
3.   Evaluate your supply chain.
4.   Create an emergency management plan.
5.   Back-up your data.
6.   Create a crisis communication plan.
7.   Assemble emergency supplies.
8.   Know your insurance coverage.
9.   Plan for an alternate location for recovery.
10. Exercise your plan.

As many of us know, any good, well-thought out plan takes at least a year to develop. In that year, there are several planning meetings, workshops, seminars, and table top exercises. When the plan is finished, there is still staff training and exercises to be completed. A long process, but well worth it when it comes to keeping your agency running so that you can do what you do best, which is to help those that are in need or who are suffering.

There is not really a "good" time to begin developing any type of plan; however, during the disaster is when most people without a business continuity plan wish they had started one or finished their plan. When staff, time, and resources are short and everyone is wearing at least five different hats, it is difficult to block out planning periods to work on a business continuity plan. However, without a business continuity plan you will:

  • Struggle to stay open or be unable to stay open during a disaster;
  • Under-utilize staff time or services;
  • Have staff that are untrained and not know what the back-up plan is or their role;
  • Not have the capacity to keep your essential services operating if they haven't been pre-identified; and/or
  • Have staff that do not know where to get back-up resources, which venders to contact, or know of alternate locations if your building is no longer usable.

Each agency will have to go through this process and will have different essential services identified and different plans. What works for one agency may not work for another, but the planning concepts are still the same. It's important to know what your capabilities, resources, and capacity could be if you had to function in extreme circumstances, so that your agency can keep operating. Let's face it, when a disaster occurs, we are already a step behind - Strike 1. When your emergency plan is out of date, we become further behind - Strike 2. If we are without, no plan, no back-ups, and no power - Strike 3. We will struggle every moment to stay open and most likely close - You're Out! bParati's methodology, in writing these types of articles, is to get our readers to talk about business continuity practices and methodology now and to start thinking about how to start, refine, re-evaluate, or complete your own business continuity planning before another disaster occurs. Stay tuned for future articles, starting in January 2014, that will dive deeper into the separate components of business continuity. I will further breakdown what business continuity is, the history, and discuss the linkages between business continuity planning and emergency planning.

Tsoetsy Harris, MPH, MEP

Tsoetsy Harris, MPH, MEP


Independent Consultant

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