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

Continuity of Operations

Identifying and Notifying Critical Staff


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

  1. Identify essential staff members -those without whom your agency could not deliver critical services (termed in this toolkit critical staff).
  2. Communicate to these members their continuity roles.
  3. Provide these members support to enable them to perform their continuity roles in the event of an emergency.

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.

Mission-Critical Staff Policy Issues

Mission Critical Employees List – Template

Mission Critical Employees List – Sample

Sample Notification Process

Sample Notification Letter

Sample Expectations of Mission-Critical Staff

Sample Talking Points for Supervisors

FEMA Continuity Evaluation Tool, “Human Capital,” pages 33-35

Sample Job Posting Language - Critical Staff

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

  • An internal campaign to communicate with and educate critical staff of their continuity roles and requirements.
  • Critical staff who are informed about and prepared for the continuity roles they need to perform in the event of an emergency.

What You Need Before Starting This Work

Steps to Completion

  1. The issues involved with this planning (categorizing certain staff as critical, setting performance expectations, providing training) are probably impacted by your agency’s human resources policies. Work with your human resources person to identify these issues and work together to find the best solutions. (See Critical Staff Policy Issues.)
  2. Identify and make note of the staff members who directly and indirectly provide and support your priority 1 and priority 2 services. These staff members can be identified as critical staff. Use the critical employee list template if it’s helpful.
  3. Outline the requirements of these critical staff members. The outline should emphasize how management’s expectations of these key staff members differ from the expectations of those staff members who support lower priority functions. See the examples listed in the Public Health – Seattle & King County’s critical staff notification letter.
  4. Share your list of critical staff members and your performance requirements with your Human Resources department. Discuss the best way to notify and communicate with critical staff what is expected of their role. Refer to PHSKC’s notification process as an example.
  5. Let all union representatives and managers throughout your organization know that you will be discussing continuity of operations issues with employees and that you will be covering how working conditions and performance assessment/discipline procedures will be impacted if and when the continuity of operations plan is activated.
  6. Draft a letter to critical staff (whom you identified above), outlining what you are expecting of them and how you will support them in meeting those expectations. For example, you may provide staff with resources or training to help them meet expectations.
  7. Prior to, or immediately after, sending your letters, visit each critical staff site and work with this group to talk about what it means to be a critical staff member. Have staff tell you what they need from the agency in order to perform their required duties. Then, fulfill as many of these requests as possible.
  8. Coordinate the distribution of “expectations” letters and staff briefing with an education and communications campaign for mission-critical staff. The goal should be to educate staff about the unique roles and responsibilities they have as emergency responders. Keep awareness of these issues alive through communication forums like employee newsletters.
  9. Determine a system to permanently track positions that have been flagged critical. This way, if there is a turnover in a critical position, the next incumbent is also notified and familiarized with the requirements of their role.
  10. Incorporate staff expectations for critical roles into any future job postings for these positions.
  11. Incorporate these continuity role duties in performance appraisals and discipline procedures (but make sure to keep them within the employee relations parameters established by your agency).