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Course Summary

IS-546.a - Continuity of Operations (COOP) Awareness

Course Overview

Continuity of operations is a Federal initiative, required by Presidential directive, to ensure that agencies are able to continue performance of essential functions under a broad range of circumstances.

Continuity of operations is part of every agency’s fundamental mission. Today’s changing threat environment has increased the need for continuity capabilities and plans at all levels of government and within the private sector.

This course will explain the scope of continuity of operations and the benefits of continuity planning.


Course Objectives

At the end of this course, you should be able to:

  1. Define continuity of operations.
  2. Identify the legal basis for continuity of operations.
  3. Explain the Continuity Program Management Cycle.
  4. Describe the elements of a viable continuity program.


The Purpose of a Continuity Plan

When an organization is faced with a continuity event, the continuity plan will:

The continuity plan documents:


Phases of Continuity

Continuity planning ensures the continuation or rapid resumption of essential functions during a continuity event. The continuity plan prepares agencies and their personnel for the possibility of relocating and being operational within 12 hours of continuity activation. Continuity plan implementation takes place in four phases:


The Legal Basis for Continuity of Operations

National Security Presidential Directive-51 (NSPD-51)/Homeland Security Presidential Directive-20 (HSPD-20), National Continuity Policy, specifies certain requirements for continuity plan development, including the requirement that all Federal executive branch departments and agencies develop an integrated, overlapping continuity capability.


Federal Continuity Directive 1 (FCD 1)

FCD 1 provides direction to all Federal executive branch agencies for developing continuity plans and programs. Continuity planning facilitates the performance of essential functions during all-hazard emergencies or other situations that may disrupt normal operations.

FCD 1 also serves as guidance to State, local, tribal, and territorial governments. All organizations, including nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), can benefit from continuity planning.


Continuity Guidance for Non-Federal Organizations

Federal Continuity Directive 1 (FCD 1) does not require non-Federal organizations to develop continuity programs. FEMA recommends strongly that all agencies develop viable continuity programs.

To help non-Federal organizations with continuity planning, FEMA has developed Continuity Guidance Circular 1, Continuity Guidance for Non-Federal Agencies (CGC 1). CGC 1 parallels the information in FCD 1 closely, but is geared to State, local, tribal, and territorial governments, and private-sector organizations.


Continuity Program Management Foundation

An organization’s capability to perform its essential functions rests on four pillars.

  1. Leadership is critical to provide support for continuity planning and ensure continuity of essential functions.
  2. Staff must be sufficiently trained and cross-trained to perform their duties in a continuity environment.
  3. Facilities must be adequate, separate locations to ensure execution of essential functions.
  4. Communication systems and technology must be interoperable, robust, and reliable.


Continuity Program Management Cycle

The Continuity Program Management Cycle is a four-step process that incorporates:


Plans and Procedures

Tasks involved in developing continuity plans and procedures include:


Test, Training, and Exercise (TT&E)

Developing and conducting test, training, and exercise (TT&E) is the second step in the Continuity Program Management Cycle.

Feedback from tests, training, and exercises should be analyzed and used when revising the continuity plan.


Evaluations, After-Action Reports, and Lessons Learned

TT&E is followed by Evaluations, After-Action Reports, and Lessons Learned.

Data from exercises and actual incidents are collected and analyzed by the evaluation team and become the basis for After-Action Reports. Reviewing the documentation provides an accurate picture of what happened and identifies areas for improvement.

Lessons learned from continuity plan implementation provide valuable information for improving the continuity process. Think of the continuity plan as a living document that will change as the continuity program evolves.


Develop Corrective Action Plans

A Corrective Action Program (CAP) is a vehicle for identifying requirements, assigning responsibilities, and developing corrective actions to resolve deficiencies and weaknesses in the continuity plan. Valid corrective actions are fed into the continuity plan, then tested and evaluated through exercises.

CAPs provide several important benefits by:


Elements of a Viable Continuity Plan

FCD 1 identifies 10 elements for a viable continuity plan:


What Is an Essential Function?

Essential functions are those functions that enable an organization to:

In other words, essential functions are the agency’s business functions that must continue with no or minimal interruption.


NEFs, PMEFs, and MEFs

There are three types of essential functions:


Orders of Succession

Succession to office is critical in the event that the agency’s leadership is unavailable, debilitated, or incapable of performing their legally authorized duties, roles, and responsibilities.

Orders of succession provide for the orderly and predefined assumption of senior agency offices, during an emergency, in the event that any officials are unavailable to execute their legal duties. Orders of succession are not merely a continuity function. They should be developed to support day-to-day operations.

Orders of succession should be at least “three deep” and include at least one person whose day-to-day job is physically located at a different site from the primary facility.


Delegations of Authority

Delegations of authority are formal documents specifying the activities that may be performed by those who are authorized to act on behalf of the agency head or other key officials.

Delegations of authority document the legal authority for officials to make key policy decisions during a continuity situation. Delegations of authority are required to ensure:


Continuity Facilities

FCD 1 and CGC 1 assume that, if continuity activation is required, an agency’s primary operating facility is unavailable and that essential functions will require relocating.

The continuity facility should be far enough away from the primary facility so that it will not be impacted by the incident that is occurring at the primary facility.

Agencies should also identify continuity—or devolution—sites in case the continuity facility is made inoperable.


Continuity Communications

Continuity of communications provides the capability to perform essential functions, in conjunction with other agencies, until normal operations can be resumed.

Continuity communications must be:


Essential Records Management

Every agency has documents, files, and other materials vital to the agency and its operations. Essential records are categorized as:

These assets depend on an essential records program to manage the identification, protection, and ready availability of the electronic and hardcopy documents, references, and records needed to support PMEFs and MEFs during a continuity situation.

An essential records program is mandatory for the Federal executive branch and suggested for non-Federal organizations.


Human Resources

Human resources is the sum of talent, energy, knowledge, and enthusiasm that people invest in their work.

During continuity activation, agencies have to perform their essential functions with reduced staffing from a variety of work locations. All Emergency Relocation Group (ERG) personnel need to be adequately trained and cross-trained to enable the performance of all essential functions.

Concerns for human resources in continuity situations include:


Test, Training, and Exercise (TT&E)

A TT&E program provides the framework for promoting consistency and uniformity of mission-readiness activities.

TT&E measures an agency’s capacity to support the continued execution of its essential functions throughout the duration of a continuity situation.

An effective TT&E program:


Devolution of Control and Direction

Devolution is the capability to transfer statutory authority and responsibility for PMEFs and MEFs from an agency’s primary operating staff and facilities to other employees and facilities.

A devolution plan is an extension of an agency’s concept of operations in the continuity plan. The devolution plan ensures continuity capability if:


Reconstitution Operations

Reconstitution of operations is the process by which surviving and/or replacement agency personnel resume normal agency operations from the original or replacement primary operating facility.

The reconstitution process involves three broad tasks:


Continuity Support Functions

To help ensure that Continuity Managers and Planners have the resources they need to develop a viable continuity program, FCD 1 requires and CGC 1 recommends four support functions:


Program Plans and Procedures

An effective continuity plan must include a “pre-planning plan” that lays out how the plan will be developed and on what timeframe.

Following the “pre-planning plan,” agencies can proceed to develop their continuity plans in an orderly manner, on time, and within budget.

Ultimately, the continuity plan must address all of the elements of a viable continuity program.


Risk Management

Risk management—also known as hazard analysis—is the process used to identify, weigh, control, and minimize the impact of the various hazards that an agency might face. The risk management process provides agencies with insight to their vulnerabilities from each hazard identified.

Risk management involves assessment and understanding of three concepts:


Budgeting and Acquisition of Resources

To support the people, communications, facilities, infrastructure, and transportation requirements for a viable continuity program, agencies must allocate funding to:

By budgeting and acquiring required resources, agency leaders will ensure that the agency has what it needs to continue essential functions before, during, and after a continuity event.


Family Support Planning

An organization’s ability to respond in a continuity situation depends on the personal readiness of its employees. Individual and family preparedness is important for continuity planning.

All employees should develop:

The continuity plan addresses family support by providing for:


Outreach Programs

Outreach programs and support are available at headquarters and regional levels of many organizations.

Continuity Working Groups (CWGs) are forums for developing and sharing continuity information within and among organizations. CWGs may be internal to an organization or interagency groups that assist in facilitating continuity:


Agencies with Continuity Responsibilities

As the lead coordinating agent for the Federal executive branch, FEMA coordinates continuity activities for all Federal executive branch agencies. FEMA is also responsible for providing continuity policy guidance to other Federal departments, as well as State, local, tribal, and territorial entities.

The General Services Agency (GSA) has responsibility for maintaining a database of all operational continuity facilities. GSA also manages the procurement process for Federal agencies.