Project Details

Pennsylvania Department of Health

Continuity of Operations Plan and Senior Leader Seminar

PA DOH Continuity of Operations Plan and Senior Leader Seminar

The Challenge
In September 2008, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PA DOH) engaged Delta in a process to develop an executable Continuity of Operations (COOP) plan and design, and to deliver an exercise to educate and train its workforce. With the specter of an influenza pandemic ever present, PA DOH needed independent validation of its COOP planning efforts to date and an assessment of the impact of federal guidance on pandemic influenza planning, as well as increased awareness of COOP plans, policies, and procedures among its senior leaders.

The Solution
Delta’s first step was to form a multidisciplinary, intra-agency steering committee to shape the strategic goals and direction, and provide valuable expertise in the COOP planning process. Next, Delta performed an in-depth review of existing COOP plans and documentation to gain a baseline assessment, and compared this documentation against recognized national standards and best practices in continuity planning. A series of preliminary meetings were held with key internal and external stakeholders to help define requirements and gather critical information for plan refinement. The Delta team then performed a series of five interactive, instructor-led, and multimedia COOP training sessions for bureau/ office directors and officials. COOP worksheets were used during these sessions to gather key information and capture it in the updated COOP plan. A written Gap Analysis was developed and used to identify and document remaining vulnerabilities, based on the results of the assessment and training, and outline strategic action items to be addressed beyond the scope of the department. Finally, Delta designed and delivered a Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP)-compliant, discussion-based exercise, in the form of a Senior Leader Seminar (SLS), to evaluate the department’s revised COOP plan, COOP training level, and COOP response capabilities. This exercise involved conducting a Concept and Objective/Initial Planning Conference (C&O/IPC) and a Final Planning Conference (FPC); developing a Situation Manual (SITMAN), Facilitator/Evaluator (F/E) Handbook, and multimedia presentation; and developing an After-Action Report (AAR) in accordance with guidelines outlined in the HSEEP. Delta’s expert facilitators and evaluators delivered this exercise to all senior leaders of the department, including members of the Secretary’s executive offices, four Deputy Secretaries, and all bureau/office directors and district health office directors.

The Result
Delta’s COOP training helped create awareness, educate, and develop proficiency for all senior officials of the department, including bureau/office directors and members of the Secretary’s Executive Management Team. The assessment and written Gap Analysis helped PA DOH gain an understanding of its current baseline COOP capabilities and identify potential vulnerabilities and shortcomings in preparedness. This document also laid out an annual process for establishing an enduring and self-sustaining COOP program through dedicated planning, training, exercising, and organizational assessment periods throughout the calendar year. Further, it provided recommendations that were either incorporated in the COOP plan or able to be forwarded to the Governor’s Office of Administration, Office for Continuity of Government, for resolution. The revised COOP plan ensured a comprehensive and thorough examination and approach to COOP planning and resulted in improved procedures in identification and safeguarding of vital records, systems, and equipment; identification, selection, and operations from alternate work sites; pandemic preparedness; orders of succession; and other critical elements of a viable COOP plan as prescribed in Federal Continuity Directive 1 and by the Office for State Continuity of Government. Finally, the SLS resulted in increased organizational awareness of COOP plans, policies, and procedures, and identified critical roles and responsibilities during a COOP event. The resulting AAR provided viable recommendations for continued COOP process improvement for the department. In short, this project ensured that PA DOH is better prepared for a catastrophic disaster that requires a COOP plan activation, and helped to guarantee that the department can continue to provide its vital services to the citizens of the Commonwealth during any crisis.