September 10, 2007
County Develops Continuity of Operations Plan
September is National Preparedness Month and President Bush has urged all citizens to take some time to reflect on how they can better prepare their families, businesses and communities for emergencies. As a government agency, Oswego County has responsibility to provide hundreds of services that our citizens rely on, and we also must be able to continue essential services through extended emergency conditions.
Some of these services are obvious, such as snow removal and road maintenance, operation of the E-911 Center, and maintaining security at the county jail. Others are not so obvious, but equally important to our constituents -- making sure that needy families continue to receive food stamps or rental assistance, that industries and residents can dispose of trash at our solid waste facilities, and that the county nurses can continue to care for hundreds of home health care patients.
The process of planning to keep essential services functioning during an extended emergency is known as “Continuity of Operations Planning” or COOP. Continuity of Operations Planning has been used at the federal level since the days of the Cold War. Since Sept. 11, 2001, COOP has received a lot more attention by state and local governments, industries and businesses.
On the county government level, a task force led by Emergency Management Director Patricia Egan, Public Health Director Kathleen Smith, and Social Services Commissioner Frances Lanigan is overseeing the development of a comprehensive plan to make sure that essential day-to-day operations would continue to function during an extended or catastrophic event.
We were all affected by the massive snowfall last February, when many people were unable to make it into their place of work. Other scenarios that could result in a severely reduced workforce, or cause relocation to another facility, could include pandemic flu, hazardous materials or radiological accidents, and extensive power failures.
The February Blizzard served as springboard for more comprehensive planning at the county level, and our county department heads have been very receptive to this process.
All 23 department heads have been asked to identify the critical services that they provide and the staff people that could be assist in critical operations. I am very gratified by their willingness to support this endeavor, share resources and become involved. They're well into the process of developing critical recovery operations, evacuation plans, alternate work plans, and emergency notification procedures for staff.
Over the next few months the individual plans will be compiled into a comprehensive crisis management procedure. Plans will be reviewed periodically and adjustments can be made as needed.
As we reflect on the events that took place six years ago this month, I encourage everyone to think about how well prepared they are to deal with an extended emergency. The county Emergency Management Office, phone 591-9150, has a wealth of experience and resources in this area, and can offer assistance on developing emergency plans for families, businesses and municipalities.
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