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

Continuity of Operations

Exercising Your Continuity of Operations Plan


This tool will share resources to help your local health department (LHD):

Tools and Samples

Aid the user in working through the toolkit we have broken out the following documents into two formats that we hope you will find helpful.

Tools: Documents that are ready to be used with little to no modification needed. They are designed to be off-the-shelf products that can be completed and used in your individual planning process.

Samples:  Documents that we have created in order to help guide you through completing the above referenced tools. They contain both real world and hypothetical scenarios that we have utilized to illustrate how the tool can look once it is completed.

COOP Exercise Purpose, Structure, Objectives

COOP Tabletop Exercise Slides – Fire Scenario

COOP Weather Exercise Slides

COOP Exercise After Action Report

COOP Tabletop Exercise Slides - Winter Storm Scenario

COOP Exercise Evaluator Checklist

FEMA Continuity Evaluation Tool - Version 6, “Test, Training, and Exercise Program,” pages 36-41

If done properly, completion of this tool should result in:

  • A plan and outline for a continuity of operations (COOP) tabletop exercise.
  • A well-run and comprehensive continuity of operations (COOP)tabletop exercise.
  • An after-action report.
  • A plan for improvement based on learnings from the exercise.

What You Need Before Starting This Work

  • A completed continuity of operations (COOP) plan.
  • Experience or training in exercise design. (If you don’t have this experience, check with knowledgeable team members or try one of these recommended resources.)
    • DeKalb County Board of Health’s Master the Disaster: An interactive tabletop exercise builder for public health emergencies.
    • FEMA’s Independent Study Program on Exercise Design (IS-139)

Steps to Completion

  1. Identify and make note of the purpose, structure and objectives for your desired COOP tabletop exercise. See PHSKC’s purpose, structure, and objectives from a recent COOP exercise as an example
  2. Tailor the COOP Weather Exercise Scenario and Discussion Points to your organization’s needs and to the capabilities you want to test.
  3. Make sure to test the most updated COOP plan and procedures in the exercise. If you need to take the time to update your plan now, do. This way you will be familiarizing everyone and testing the most recent version of all protocols.
  4. Schedule your COOP tabletop exercise and invite participants. Make sure to attach background documents like the agency’s COOP plan and procedures to participants’ invites, so they can familiarize themselves with the materials before the exercise.
  5. Conduct the tabletop exercise. If you’ll be facilitating the discussion, appoint colleagues to observe and make note of how well the players achieved the stated objectives.
  6. Debrief the exercise immediately after while the learnings are fresh in everyone’s minds, or schedule a debrief to occur within a week.
  7. Draft a formal after-action report noting successes and lessons learned. Create an improvement plan assigning responsibilities and timelines for correcting those things that did not work well in the exercise. Share the report and improvement plan with all players, and other COOP program stakeholders.
  8. Track everyone’s progress completing the items in the improvement plan to make sure nothing gets forgotten.