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

Continuity of Operations

Mission-Critical Vendors: Additional Information

If You Only Have a Little Time

To save time, you can just incorporate new emergency requirements into new agreements as old ones expire – instead of modifying existing agreements to add the new expectations.

If You Have More Time to Spend

  • Ensure your agency’s expectations align with what is best for your community. For example, if your agency requires a specific emergency good or service, but the community is best served by hospitals receiving that good or service first, don’t add a clause to the contract requiring vendor to prioritize filling your agency’s order first.
  • You will need to ensure your vendors can actually serve you during an emergency. Survey mission-critical vendors to find out the steps they have taken to increase their business resiliency. (See Mission Critical Vendors – Business Resiliency Survey for an example.) Analyze the results to determine weaknesses. Support existing vendors in improving their emergency preparedness or find new vendors who are better prepared.
  • Talk with partners about how to tackle challenges surrounding supply-chain resiliency. You can even share your agency’s approach and lessons learned. This is a complex, universal issue and all can benefit from sharing knowledge surrounding it.

Where This Leads You

  • Effective supply-chain management is imperative to sustaining critical services in an emergency, and this tool only represents the tip of the iceberg. For additional ways to make your supply chain more resilient, talk to an expert.
  • If your vendor is unable to provide key items in the event of an emergency, you may need to borrow needed equipment or supplies from neighboring businesses or agencies. Consider setting up memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with these organizations to ensure your agency will have access to the supplies it needs. (See the attached MOU for a resource.)
  • Assign someone the task of maintaining the mission-critical vendor list and ensuring it is available during emergencies.
  • See if there is anything that can be done to improve your ability to receive and distribute critical supplies during an emergency.
  • Your agency may not be directly responsible for managing all of your contracts and purchase orders. If this is the case, say your county’s procurement office handles this for you, you should work with the unit responsible to ensure your new emergency acquisition requirements make it into their bidding process.

Pitfalls to Avoid

  • Don’t only rely on the vendor letter. Leverage existing relationships or build new ones by also talking to your vendors over the phone or in person. This way you can make sure your vendors understand your needs as an emergency response agency.
  • Don’t forget to consider your mission-critical vendor’s location. There are both pros and cons to having critical vendors based outside your geographic area. Pro: non-local vendors may not be impacted by the same events and may be able to better serve you in emergencies. Con: in an emergency, transportation routes may be blocked, making it difficult to get items in from outside of the immediate area. Determine how these pros and cons impact your mission-critical functions when selecting critical vendors.

How You Know You Got It Right

  • You successfully contact and receive service from a mission-critical vendor outside business hours during an emergency.
  • Your vendors and ask you to support them in developing emergency response plans for their businesses.

Considerations for Rural Health Departments

For rural health departments, it is especially important to talk with both your public and private sector partners to learn who has the resources you will need during an emergency. Build relationships and draft any necessary MOUs with those who could come to your aid.