COOP self help

For federal agencies, continuity-of-operations planning is nothing new. Signed in 1988, Executive Order 12656 called for each agency to ensure it could continue to provide services during an emergency. But the order didn't specify how to execute a COOP plan.

1998's Presidential Decision Directive 67 lent more specificity to COOP. It stated that agencies should plan for all types of hazards, from floods and fires to terrorist attacks. Agencies should have alternate facilities that could be operational within 12 hours of a disaster. And the COOP should be sustainable for 30 days.

Then there's Federal Preparedness Circular 65, which 'establishes standard elements of a continuity plan,' said Tom Hutton, director of emergency preparedness for SRA International Inc. Fairfax, Va., a systems integrator. It describes in more detail what agencies should do, including help on how to develop a COOP and implement it over several years.

The good news for agencies is that there is plenty of assistance to be had in complying with COOP policies. The Federal Emergency Management Agency's Program Coordination Branch of the National Preparedness Division offers COOP implementation guidance, including documentation on COOP testing and acquiring alternate facilities. You can find FEMA's COOP template by going to www.gcn.com and entering 505 in the GCN.com/box.

In June 2004, the General Services Administration, in partnership with FEMA and the Office of Personnel Management, launched the COOP Manager Train the Trainer program. This course can assist in developing COOP programs, including tasks such as identifying essential functions, developing process and procedures, and assigning key personnel. The National Institute of Standards and Technology also has a publication that instructs on COOP construction, Contingency Planning Guide for Information Technology Systems (NIST Special Publication 800-34). Read NIST's guidance at www.GCN.com/514.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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