Continuity of Operations Capabilities

Main Content

FEMA is designated as the Department of Homeland Security's lead agency for managing the nation's Continuity Program. To support this role, FEMA provides direction and guidance to assist in developing capabilities for continuing the federal, state, local, tribal and territorial government jurisdictions and private sector organizations' essential functions across a broad spectrum of emergencies. FEMA's National Continuity Programs (NCP) leads this effort for the nation.

Elements of Viable Continuity Capability

The Continuity Plan is the roadmap for the implementation and management of the Continuity Program.  NSPD-51/HSPD-20, the NCPIP, Federal Continuity Directive 1, and Continuity Guidance Circular 1 outline the following overarching continuity requirements for agencies and organizations.

Essential Functions – a subset of government and other organizational functions that are determined to be critical activities used to identify supporting tasks and resources that must be included in the agency’s and organization’s continuity planning process.

Orders of Succession – identified Orders of Succession are an essential part of a continuity program to ensure that personnel know who assumes the authority and responsibility if that leadership is incapacitated or becomes otherwise unavailable during a continuity situation.

Delegations of Authority – provide personnel with the authority to make key decisions during a continuity situation where the primary decision maker is not available. 

Continuity Facilities – alternate facilities from which an agency and organization can perform its essential functions in a threat-free environment.

Continuity Communications – the ability of an organization to execute its essential functions at its continuity facilities depends on the identification, availability and redundancy of critical communications and information technology (IT) systems to support connectivity among key government leadership personnel, internal elements, other agencies, critical customers and the public during crisis and/or disaster conditions.

Essential Records Management – the identification, protection and ready availability of electronic and hard copy documents, references, records, information systems, data management software and equipment needed to support essential functions during a continuity situation.

Human Resources – provides guidance to emergency employees and other special categories of employees who are activated by an agency and organization to perform assigned response duties during a continuity event.

Tests, Training, and Exercises – provisions made for the identification, training, and preparedness of personnel capable of relocating to alternate facilities to support the continuation of the performance of essential functions.

Devolution of Control and Direction – capability to transfer statutory authority and responsibility for essential functions from an agency’s and organization’s primary operating staff and facilities to other agency and organization employees and facilities, and to sustain that operational capability for an extended period.

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

Four Phases of Continuity of Operations Activation

Phase I – Readiness and Preparedness.

Phase II – Activation: plans, procedures, and schedules to transfer activities, personnel, records, and equipment to alternate facilities are activated.

Phase III – Continuity Operations: full execution of essential operations at alternate operating facilities is commenced.

Phase IV – Reconstitution: operations at alternate facility are terminated and normal operations resume.

Conditions in which the Continuity Plan will be Activated

The plan could be activated in response to a wide range of events or situations – from a fire in the building; to a natural disaster; to the threat or occurrence of a terrorist attack.  Any event that makes it impossible for employees to work in their regular facility could result in the activation of the continuity plan.

"Continuity planning is simply the good business practice of ensuring the execution of essential functions through all circumstances, and it is a fundamental responsibility of public and private entities responsible to their stakeholders."

Last Updated: 
04/16/2015 - 13:52
Back to Top