The Emergency Services Sector Continuity Planning Suite (ESS CPS) provides a centralized collection of existing guidance, processes, products, tools, and best practices to support the development and maturation of continuity planning for the first responder community. The ESS CPS was created through a partnership of the Emergency Services Sector Risk Management Agency (SRMA) and Sector Coordinating Council (SCC). First responders can use the ESS CPS as it suits their organization to evaluate and improve their continuity capability and enhance their preparedness for emergencies.
Education: Why Continuity Planning is Important
Continuity planning is simply the good business practice of ensuring the execution of essential functions through emergencies. Without the planning, provision, and implementation of continuity principles, first responders may be unable to provide services to help fellow citizens when needed the most. Continuity planning enables first responders to maintain their essential functions and fulfill their mission to save lives, protect property and the environment, assist communities impacted by disasters, and aid recovery from emergencies.
- Continuity of Operations–What You Need to Know (video)
- Stepping into Their Shoes (video)
- Continuity and Pandemic Influenza Planning (discussion paper)
- Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA) Comprehensive Preparedness Guide
Tools and Resources: Evaluating Continuity Capability
The core of the ESS CPS is an easy-to-use and uniform method for evaluating continuity capability to identify and fill continuity gaps. Through identifying and addressing these gaps, viable continuity programs can be established that will help keep organizations functioning during emergencies. ESS organizations can use the entire Continuity Capability Evaluation for the Emergency Services Sector (CCE) to complete an evaluation, or they can evaluate selected elements of continuity capability based on their organizations’ needs. Worksheets and templates are provided for filling gaps identified when evaluating continuity capability.
There are 11 major elements in evaluating continuity capability in the Emergency Services Sector:
- Essential Functions – The limited set of organization-level functions that should be continued throughout, or resumed rapidly after, a disruption of normal activities.
- Orders of Succession – Provisions that enable an orderly and predefined transition of organizational leadership positions if an organization’s leader is incapacitated or becomes otherwise unavailable during an emergency.
- Delegations of Authority – Identification, by position, of the authorities for making policy determinations and decisions at headquarters, field levels, and all other organizational locations. Generally, predetermined delegations of authority will take effect when normal channels of direction have been disrupted and will lapse when these channels have been reestablished.
- Continuity Facilities – Locations from which leadership and critical positions may operate during an emergency. These may include one or many facilities or virtual offices from which to continue essential operations.
- Continuity Communications – Systems that support full connectivity among leadership, internal elements, and other organizations to perform essential functions during an emergency.
- Essential Records Management – The identification, protection, and availability of information systems and applications, electronic and hardcopy documents, references, and records needed to support essential functions during an emergency. For additional guidance, see the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Essential Records Guide.
- Human Resources – Policies, plans, and procedures that address human resources needs during an emergency, such as guidance on pay, leave, work scheduling, benefits, telework, hiring, authorities, and flexibilities.
- Test, Training, and Exercise – The identifying, training, and preparing of personnel capable of performing their continuity responsibilities and implementing procedures to support the continuation of essential functions. Training provides the skills and familiarizes personnel with procedures and tasks. Tests and exercises assess and validate all of the components of continuity plans, policies, procedures, systems, and facilities. Additional references include:
- Devolution of Control and Direction – The capability to transfer statutory authority and responsibility for essential functions from primary operating staff and facilities to other employees and facilities. It also provides the means to sustain that operational capability for an extended period.
- Reconstitution Operations – The process by which the organization’s personnel resume normal operations from the original or a replacement primary operating facility.
- Program Plans and Procedures – The effort to document the existence of, and seek the capability to continue, an organization’s essential functions during a wide range of potential emergencies. For additional guidance, see FEMA's Continuity Plan Template and Instructions for Non-Federal Entities and Community-Based Organizations.
Example State and local government resources for evaluating continuity capability:
- Maryland Emergency Management Agency Continuity of Operations (COOP) Worksheets
- County of Santa Clara (CA) Office of Emergency Management COOP Planning Worksheets
Additional information on continuity capability evaluation from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Continuity Resources and Technical Assistance:
Knowledge Validation: Testing, Training, and Exercising Continuity Planning
Applying continuity capability and plans through exercises and training validates the efforts invested in continuity capability-building and can help identify opportunities for improvement. The ESS CPS provides templates and resources for conducting and documenting exercises for emergency events, as well as references for training available to first responders to improve continuity capability.
- Exercises – Conducting exercises is an effective way for an ESS organization to test its continuity plan and capabilities.
- Emergency Services Sector-Specific Tabletop Exercise Program (ES SSTEP)
- Emergency Services Sector Tabletop Exercise After-Action Report/ Improvement Plan Template
- Emergency Services Sector Tabletop Exercise Controller/Evaluator Handbook – VBIED Scenario
- Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP)
- Training – Maintaining continuity requires training to establish and hone effective organization continuity practices. Relevant courses and other training are available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), FEMA Emergency Management Institute (EMI), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and the District of Columbia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (DC HSEMA).
- FEMA Continuity Excellence Series: Professional and Master Practitioner Continuity Certificate Programs
- EMI E0547: Continuity Exercise Design
- EMI E0548: Continuity of Operations Planning Program Manager Train-the-Trainer Course
- EMI E0553: Resilient Accord Cyber Security Planning Workshop
- EMI E0557: Mission Essential Functions Workshop (Continuity Guidance)
- USFS R0492: Emergency Resource Deployment Planning (SOC)
- USFS Q0462: ICS-100 – Introduction to ICS for Operational First Responders
Emergency Services Sector Continuity Planning Suite Checklist – ESS organizations can use this checklist to confirm that they have reviewed the major sections of the ESS CPS and to indicate how the ESS CPS is incorporated in the organization’s specific continuity of operations (COOP) or continuity of government (COG).