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What Happens if State and Local Governments Lose the Ability to Provide Services?
Arkansas Continuity of Operations Program (ACOOP) Overview
Since 2004, the Arkansas Continuity of Operations Program (ACOOP) has provided a methodology, hardware, software, training, and user assistance for the development, maintenance and testing of all-hazards plans for Arkansas agencies, boards and commissions. These plans are intended to ensure that essential services will continue to be provided after any disruptive event. As of April 2015, over 2067 planners from our agencies, boards, commissions, school districts, counties, and cities are maintaining approximately 1998 plans for entities and locations in the state.
The ACOOP Program continues to welcome new organizations and planners from across Arkansas by conducting COOP Concepts courses. These courses, which provide an introduction to COOP planning and the software tool, are held regularly in Little Rock, as well as various locations across the State. We will also review your plan based on the state requirements, by request. Additionally, we can assist in the testing and exercising of your organization’s COOP plan by facilitating table top exercises.
The ACOOP methodology includes the following elements:
- FEMA elements of a viable COOP, consistency with NIMS, ICS
- Addresses all hazards, available to all state entities
- Response, Continuity of Operations, Disaster Recovery
- Complimentary to existing emergency response plans
- Continuity of Government (COG)
- SuperCOOP software tool
The elements of a viable continuity plan
The following are the standards from FEMA that we follow when planning for all State agencies, boards commissions, school districts, counties, and cities.
- Essential Processes - What they do on a daily basis for all divisions on the high level. Example: Administration, Information Technology, Human Resources, Maintenance, Faculty, etc.
- Orders of Succession - Primary, secondary, and tertiary person(s) to take over a specific job if the normal person in that position is no longer available.
- Delegations of Authority - Main management positions and the line that is followed if they are needed.
- Interoperable Communications - Having all employee home, work, cell and emergency contact numbers as well as alternate e-mail addresses and vendor contact information.
- Vital Records - Any record (paper or electronic) that is needed to complete a process. Example: fiscal records, accounts payable, accounts billable, APSCN, AASIS.
- Human Capital - Including all members of an organization and the specific skills/attributes they are capable of doing.
- Alternate locations - Back-up sites, homes, restoration sites, and offsite storage spaces pre-identified with existing memorandums of understanding if necessary.
- Devolution planning - Who will take responsibility of processes if no one is no longer available to continue them. Example: One ADC prison facility has been destroyed along with the employees, ADC central office will now be in charge of devolving new prisoners to other facilities.
- Reconstitution - Return to normal operations. Example: Listed supplies, equipment, vital records, and software that you would need from day one, prioritized to week 4.
The Software Tool
The software tool facilitates the maintenance of standards and consistency of the hundreds of plans for Arkansas state entities. Behind the scenes, its relational database allows planners to enter data once to be used multiple times in task assignments, reporting structures, call lists, skill sets, and resource requirements. The extensive reporting and analysis capabilities have made possible the review of critical services across plans and agencies. Work is now underway to identify the dependencies and interdependencies of services provided by these 300 agencies, boards, commissions, institutes of higher education, school districts, cities, and counties. About 400 ACOOP entity plans and all K-12 school districts are capable of associating any of their data items with physical locations through geographic information systems (GIS) tools.
The Scoring Process
ACOOP has adopted evaluation criteria and a rating chart from FEMA in an effort to become more standardized, encourage entities to continue planning for continuity of operations. The ACOOP team will conduct a plan review for continuity plan and the final score will fall into one of the following categories.
Low Range 0-49%
- Little to no progress.
- Preliminary efforts may have been initiated.
- Steps may include initial plans to develop this aspect of the capability, allocation of resources, and identification of personnel responsible for achievement of the objective.
- Strategies for closing gaps and overcoming barriers to success are being developed and initiated.
- Work may have begun on strategies to resolve weaknesses and barriers that persist and prevent success.
- Insurmountable barriers may exist and challenges that could potentially undermine achievement may exist and might not yet been resolved.
Mid Range 50-79%
- Significant efforts are underway.
- Critical tasks have been completed.
- Strategies for closing gaps and overcoming barriers to success are being implemented and clear progress has been made.
- Efforts to achieve this objective are established and stable.
- Some weaknesses or barriers that prevent success persist, but strategies to resolve them are documented and well underway.
Upper Range 80-99%
- Efforts within the continuity elements are mature.
- All Critical Tasks have been completed.
- Plan has been tested twice per year.
- Few gaps or barriers to success remain. None are significant.
- Evidence documenting this level of progress is readily available.
- Efforts within this area may include addressing lessons learned from exercises or events when this element of capability was tested and demonstrated.
- Strengths are robust and likely to be sustained.
- All elements have been addressed and a perfect review score is obtained.
How to receive a plan review?
The ACOOP team can complete a plan review upon request of the user at any time during the planning process. Legislative audit may also send a request while performing an audit at a location. Legislative audit will conclude based upon the score of the plan review.
The ACOOP effort has focused state entity energy and resources on developing plans to minimize the impact of natural and man-made disasters on state operations. Reviews of the work completed thus far make it clear that plan development is only the start of the process. In order to ensure long-term effectiveness, these plans must be continually tested, lessons learned must be institutionalized, and recommendations for improvements must be supported and adopted. The key to the success of this program is establishing a state government culture where our leadership and staff are aware of the need to plan, accept responsibility for ensuring the continuity of essential state services, and are actively involved in refining and following an ongoing, repeatable program methodology.