Continuity of Operations Planning at the Pueblos

Yesterday we kicked of our first of two days of our FEMA class “Continuity of Operations for Tribal Governments”.  Our class is providing tribal representatives with an understanding of how to develop and implement a Continuity of Operations program to ensure continuity of community essential functions across a wide range of emergencies and events.  We have a good-sized class with 12 participants from both the Acoma and Laguna Pueblos.

We started class with welcoming comments from the Emergency Management representative from the Acoma Pueblo.  One of our participants, also from Acoma, then provided an invocation in his native language.  Starting meetings with a prayer is traditional for the Indian culture.  From there, we were off and running.

Continuity of Operations (COOP) Planning

We started out on square one by defining COOP as an initiative to ensure a tribal government’s ability to continue to perform essential functions during a wide range of emergencies.  Just like in business we are addressing essential (or critical) functions.

Another foundational concept that we addressed was why continuity of operations planning is important for tribal governments.  To answer that question, we identified four key reasons including:

  1. Avoid interrupting services to members and issuance of payments
  2. Protect historical, ancestral, enrollment, and other vital records from damage or loss
  3. Provide a plan and definite responsibilities so that tribal departments make decisions in emergencies
  4. Protect the tribal government from liability.

Conducting a Risk Assessment

To begin this topic we started a discussion of risk and threat in an effort to define terms and show why a risk assessment is important to emergency management and continuity of operations planning.  During our discussion we also introduced the concept of both “critical facilities” and a four-step RA model that participants could begin using to identify and assess risks.  That model included

  1. Hazard identification
  2. Weigh and Compare risks
  3. Profile hazards and consequences
  4. Complete the hazard profile

Once the highest risks are identified, we talked about how we need to then plan for high-risk/ high-impact threats first, but we cannot simply ignore threats that pose a lower risk but have an accompanying high impact on tribal government operations.

We closed the unit by sharing a tool called a “Hazard Profile Worksheet” that our participants could use to quantify the risks posed to both their communities and to their facilities.

Supporting Essential Functions

We started this unit by discussing the “essential” (or critical) functions of the tribal governments and the necessary staffing, vital records, databases, and systems support required for essential functions.  To help with this, we introduced another worksheet, the “Essential Functions Worksheet” and provided tips on how to complete it.  It’s important not only for Tribal governments but in business too, to understand what’s essential and what isn’t.  In a disaster, we’ll want to focus our energy and resources recovering (continuing) the essential functions first.  And once we identify essential functions, we also need to identify essential employees who perform those functions.

We also spent time talking about alternate facilities, and more specifically Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs).  Should a tribe (or a community or business) not have adequate alternate facilities, then they may consider the use of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with a neighboring tribal government or jurisdiction for temporary space as an alternate facility.

Of course, communications is an essential function in every incident.  We shared with our class that the three steps necessary in determining communications needs are identifying the:

  1. Tribal government departments that must communicate in an emergency situation
  2. Options for communicating with tribal membership
  3. What types of information must be communicated

And for tribal governments, like in any other community (government) it will be important that they communicate with neighboring jurisdictions.

Along with communications, we also must consider, and plan for, other supporting functions such as vital records and databases and the linking vital files and databases to the performance of essential functions.  This includes having appropriate backup and update strategies for data as well as file and database security strategies.

Today we’ll begin by finishing “Supporting Essential Functions”.  Then, to complete the course we’ll be covering “Developing a Continuity Plan” and “Activating the Continuity of Operations Plan”.  I’m looking forward to another terrific day of training with some wonderful people here in Acoma.

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Getting Prepared In a Year

Let’s continue on with building our preparedness at home.  Here’s what you can do now to add to your preparedness kit:

From your local hardware store, pick up the following items:

  • Whistle
  • ABC Fire extinguisher
  • Pliers
  • Vise grips

Things to Do:

Take a First Aid and CPR/AED class(es)


One Response to Continuity of Operations Planning at the Pueblos

  1. krista rowland says:

    Now I see why everyone says Oregon is so lush and green. Looks dry there, but pretty.

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