Sustaining Critical Services - Continuity of Operations - A Toolkit for Public Health

Continuity of Operations

Line of Succession: Additional Information

If You Only Have a Little Time

While it’s always recommended that you take time to thoroughly complete each step in your Continuity of Operations planning, if you only have a little time to spend you can distribute a shorthand version of your LOS plans to key people. Here’s how to set it up:

  • Using your list of mission-critical services (created in the Prioritizing Services section), create a LOS for leadership of each. Ensure that the people in line for each role have the skill set that role requires.
  • Name the incumbent’s deputy or subordinate number one. (You can ask the incumbent to assist you in this process).
  • Name someone who used to hold the position (if still applicable) number two.
  • Name a comparable manager number three.

At minimum, contact the people in your LOS to inform them they could possibly be called on to act in these alternate assignments.

If You Have More Time to Spend

  • Use any extra time to thoroughly go through your LOS and figure out which skills are needed for each role. Then pair people with those skill sets to that LOS. Make sure to take into consideration who will actually be available in an emergency.
  • Have even more time? Great. Try putting your LOS into action with a test run. This test can be as simple as testing notification procedures to activate your LOS or having various members in your LOS step in and act out their alternate roles.

Where This Leads You

Once your line of succession is in place you can:

  • Create delegations of authority for those in your line of succession (see the Delegations of Authority section).
  • Train all LOS staff members how to step into their alternate roles during emergencies. If cross-training isn’t feasible for your organization, ask incumbents to document the job procedures needed to fulfill their mission-critical roles and have them store those documents where they can be accessed by other staff members for reference.
  • Create a list of the operational procedures that need to be taken to enact your LOS. This list should include, who gets notified and how successors get keys/passwords/signature authority, etc., to fulfill their roles.
  • Keep in mind that some individuals in the LOS may have regular roles that need to be performed. Make sure there is someone who can perform these roles in case those LOS staff members are called into action.
  • If someone in a mission-critical role takes an absence, use this time to test your LOS.

Pitfalls to Avoid

  • Don’t fall short. When creating your LOS, ensure your succession planning goes deep enough to avoid gaps in roles.
  • Don’t fail to cross-train. Make sure that everyone on your LOS list knows the roles they may need to perform in an emergency and knows how to perform those roles.
  • Don’t fail to document procedures. Always document activation and deactivation procedures. Everyone in the LOS needs to know how it will be activated and how it will be deactivated – if not everyone understands these processes there could be confusion regarding when someone is responsible for their regular duties or when they are supposed to take over other duties.
  • Don’t over-activate. There is no need to activate your LOS every time a leader has a brief, planned absence, only during unexpected absences or periods of long leave.

How You Know You Got It Right

If a mission-critical staff member takes an unexpected leave, medical or otherwise, and your operations can continue with minimal disruption and stress, then you got it right!

Considerations for Rural Health Departments

  • If you are a rural health department, your small staff may mean you can only train one backup for each mission-critical role.
  • Since it may be challenging to allot the time and resources needed for cross-training, have mission-critical staff develop a job checklist to assist anyone who may have to temporarily fill their role. Encourage cross-training, when possible, by having staff compile procedures needed to fulfill their roles and have others try those procedures out. For example, have reception staff create a procedures list for handling the phones and have other staff members practice these procedures.