Step 3: Maintaining Operations and Services

Continuity of Operations (COOP) Planning

Having an emergency action plan does not protect your organization from emergencies. What happens to your services during and following an emergency or disaster? Can you still provide essential services to your customers...or the community? How long can you stay closed before jeopardizing your organization? Think of continuity as doing what you would normally do without what you would normally do it with!

A Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) helps to address these questions. This plan will help your organization understand what needs to happen in order to maintain operations during or return to "normal" operations after an emergency. Here, you will consider the impact on your equipment, personnel, supply chain, and facility. Planning for the impacts that a disaster has on the most important aspects to your organization will ensure it can recover more quickly.

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety developed a tool called Open For Business-EZ to help organizations of all sizes develop a continuity plan. The toolkit takes your organization through a number of critical areas related to continuity including:

    1. Know Your Risks (already completed with your Hazard Vulnerability Assessment)
    2. Know Your Operations
    3. Know Your Employees
    4. Know Your Customers, Contacts, Suppliers, Vendors
    5. Know Your Finances
    6. Know Your Information Technology
    7. Know When to Update Your Plan
    8. Know When to Test Your Plan

Some of the content included in this template aligns with information you collected during the development of your Hazard Vulnerability Assessment and Emergency Action Plan. Make sure you have those documents on hand while you develop your Continuity of Operations Plan.

After completing the Open For Business-EZ toolkit, you are ready to proceed with the development of a Continuity of Operations Plan. FEMA has developed a comprehensive Continuity Plan Template to assist in creating a formal document. We've uploaded it in an editable format here or it can be found as a PDF.

If you have questions during the development of your Continuity of Operations Plan, contact us.

1. Know Your Risks

The Continuity of Operations Plan focuses on the hazards that could impact our organization. The Hazard Vulnerability Assessment identified the hazards that could impact your operations and helps measure risk to your organization.

2. Know Your Operations

Next, Open For Business-EZ asks organizations to identify "business functions" that are critical to the organization. Continuity of Operations Plans are also known as Business Continuity Plans for the private sector. All organizations must be able to provide essential services to their clients, customers, constituents, and members in order to ensure a more Resilient Nashua. What functions must your organization be able to do in order to accomplish your mission? Fill out a "Know Your Operations" form for each of the critical functions within your organization. Additional information is available from the Small Business Administration on how to select Critical Business Functions.

3. Know Your Employees

Open For Business-EZ then collects employee information to ensure all can be reached during any emergency. Your organization probably already collects this information. If you don't have an existing system in place to capture employee and volunteer information, or would like to compare your employee record collection to the Open For Business-EZ form, you can view it here.

4. Know Your Customers, Contacts, Suppliers, and Vendors

Your Emergency Action Plan identified contact information for vendors and critical organizations in the community. Open For Business-EZ provides a detailed form to ensure you have after-hours information for key customers, contacts, suppliers, and vendors. Complete one form for each contact. While you work with each vendor on your continuity plan, the Small Business Administration has a resource to assess each critical vendor for issues prior to an emergency.

5. Know Your Finances

Work with the Financial Representative on your Emergency Planning Committee to fill out the next Open For Business-EZ form related to financial operations in the event of a disruption. This form outlines everything from credit lines to payroll operations.

6. Know Your Information Technology

A critical component of continuity is Information Technology Disaster Recovery. The Open For Business-EZ documents your organization's inventory of critical equipment, hardware, and software that are required to complete your critical functions. You can also use this form to document vital records.

Note: The form is only to be used to fill out an Information Technology item or Vital Record, not both. Use a separate form for each item.

7. Know When To Update Your Plan

Open For Business-EZ uses the many forms described above to help your Emergency Planning Committee identify and determine all of the operations, people, equipment, and systems necessary to keep your organization running. However, it doesn't create a neat and flowing Continuity of Operations plan. One resource you can use as an outline to organize the information is this shorter Business Continuity Plan Template or this comprehensive Continuity Plan Template to assist in creating a formal document. We've uploaded it in an editable format here or it can be found as a PDF.

Note: This template is basic, but it provide some guidance on how to organize the content of your plan.

8. Know When To Test Your Plan

After completing your Continuity of Operations Plan, use can evaluate it using the self-assessment checklist included in NFPA 1600, the Standard on Continuity, Emergency, and Crisis Management. NFPA 1600 is a consensus based standard updated regularly by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) that establishes requirements and recommendations related to continuity of operations programs for businesses and other organizations. It is considered one of the more comprehensive industry standards for continuity planning. If you have areas to improve, don't worry! We'll show you how to improve your plan piece by piece over time in Step 5: Resiliency Next Steps.

NFPA 1600 can be accessed free on the NFPA website. The self-assessment checklist can be found in Annex B.

Community Emergency Planning Spotlight

The local Boys and Girls Club creates a Continuity of Operations Plan using the Open for Business template. They collect critical information necessary to their specific needs, such as an inventory of their vital records, a survey of critical business functions and identify a recovery location. Using this information, they develop a plan that will enable them to continue to provide childcare services following a disaster and return to normal operations more quickly.