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

Continuity of Operations

Line of Succession


This tool provides resources and a process for your local health department (LHD) to identify and train backups for leadership and critical staff in case of a key staff member’s absence.

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.

Line of Succession - Template

Line of Succession - Sample

Line of Succession Planning - How Deep to Go

Procedures for Activating Line of Succession

Challenges and Opportunities Small and Large Dept Perspectives

FEMA Continuity Evaluation Tool, “Orders of Succession,” pages 15-17

LOS Sample - Small Dept

What You Need Before Starting This Work:

  • Your agency’s mission-critical services list (the list you just completed in the Mission-Critical Services section).
  • Any legal mandates your agency may have. Note that some leadership positions, such as health officer, require legal credentials. You will need to be aware of these before creating your LOS.
  • Any related memoranda of understanding (MOUs). For example, any agreement you may have with a neighboring department’s health officer to serve as your county’s health officer in an emergency event. Make sure you understand how these agreements impact your LOS planning.

Steps to Completion:

  1. Make a list of the roles that need succession planning and the skills each role requires.
  2. Figure out how deep you need to go in a LOS for each role, this will most likely depend on the size of your agency. For a small local health department, one or two successors will work. For a larger agency three to five successors is better.
  3. Identify those individuals that will act as successors for each mission-critical role. Sometimes, for example, in the case of a MD role, the right successor may be external to your agency.
  4. Once your lines of succession are mapped out, look at them side-by-side (use the LOS - How Deep to Go? Worksheet). If one person is appearing in several different lines of succession it could pose a problem if that person is called upon to perform multiple roles during an emergency. If you do have the same person in the LOS for multiple roles, you may want to include more, or different people in those lines of succession.
  5. Notify all the individuals in your LOS and create a plan to cross-train them.
  6. Make note of the operational procedures you will need to follow to activate your LOS as well as any procedures that need to take place during its activation (see Public Health - Seattle & King County’s LOS Activation procedures for an example).
  7. Document your LOS in your Continuity of Operations plan using the Line of Succession template and notify the top-level managers at your agency of the addition.