4 Phases of Continuity Operations

Introduction – Time to get back to the basics for a minute and talk about the four phases of continuity operations. Continuity means keeping the community or corporation/business going through a crisis or disaster.

The four phases are “Readiness & Preparedness”, “Activation & Relocation”, “Continuity Operations”, and “Reconstitution”. The reference for this is the ready.gov website but I have to mention that I don’t rely/agree 100% with everything put out by ready.gov. I do agree that we don’t need to reinvent the wheel so I will use these four phases and specifically point out where I venture into my own 3CFortress ideas.

The Four Phases of Continuity Operations

Readiness & Preparedness

I doubt anyone can argue that being prepared is the first step or phase for any continuity planning. Isn’t that what the Boy Scouts have been saying for years, “Be prepared”? Before you can use my main acronym, AdIOS – Adapt Improvise Overcome Survival, you have to prepare…take steps to start building a plan.

It goes without saying that if you are going to prepare then the crisis hasn’t started yet. If it has then time to prepare has run out. You are now in the reactionary mode. It is always better to prepare and be ready.

In this phase you start to develop the plan or review/revise if one is already started. If you do have a plan in place then now is the time to figure out how to train, test and evaluate that plan.

Another first step in the development of a plan is Risk Management. That deserves a whole chapter so I will only hit the highlights for now. You have to know what you are up against. What are the threats and hazards (natural and man-made) that the community or corporation have to deal with, what impact and probability of their occurrence and how will you deal with them? This is a major step that you can’t rush through.

Activation & Relocation

After you have a plan approved then a key step is activating that plan. Here is where you communication plan becomes a make or break step. Did you test your communications plan? Do you have a team in place that was monitoring the situation? Does everyone understand how to receive the activation and what to do? People going in the wrong direction or not knowing what to do are not what you want at this point.

On the point of relocation I advise any corporation or business to develop your plan so this is not needed. The standard is to relocate within twelve hours to a different facility for a period of thirty days. It is easy to think how communicating and getting people to move is not easily accomplished no matter how many times you have rehearsed it.

My point is to plan for your main facility to become a 3CFortress that is self-sustaining at least for thirty days. If you compare how complex relocating is to planning a shelter in place facility is going to be much better in the long run especially if the crisis or disaster goes beyond thirty days. We’ve seen plenty of disasters go well beyond thirty days before normal operations returned.

Turning your community or corporate facility into a 3CFortress means you are not only planning for key employees but their families as well. In order for essential functions to be performed you have to provide for the entire daily needs that they require. This is another point that most plans don’t consider. As Super Storm Sandy showed us, many of these basic services were interrupted for longer than thirty days. Not only did this create a crisis on a personal level it forced many businesses to close forever.

When the crisis is developing it is a good idea to use a Decision Matrix. The ready.gov site mentions a good one to use and the military uses a more detailed process for this and much more when developing a plan. It is called the Military Decision Making Process.

Along with identifying the threats and hazards is thinking about what the “triggers” are for these events. It is rare that an event goes from no notice to a full-blown event. Identifying the triggers provides a decision point to up the awareness, alert teams and prepare for the next step or phase.

Alert and Notification

Back to the communications plan for alert and notifications… about the changing situation. Any change in the situation may involve staging of additional supplies and preparing for movement of supplies and personnel. Do employees/citizens need to prepare their drive-away kits now?

Continuity Operations

This is the main event for continuity. It means you have twelve hours to move to another facility or if there is no movement then to remain up and running in the primary facility for the next thirty days or as needed. Up and running means all the essential functions identified in the continuity plan are still operational. The key leaders and employees are performing their tasks without having to worry about their loved ones. In the 3CFortress model this can mean moving families to the main facility hotel, which is now operating in the long-term stay mode. Any vacant housing within safe walking distance (think “living triangle” or Work-Play-Live) of the main facility can be used as overflow housing.

Accountability, strict accountability, is needed at this point to keep personnel, supplies, everything from getting out of line. No plan goes exactly as planned but keeping a close tab on operations will prevent a lot of headaches. Is anyone not working out of the main facility (telework)? They need to be accounted for and taken care of. How are you support partners holding up? If there is a problem in your supply-chain then you better know about it as far in advance as possible.


Once the crisis or disaster has passed then the decision is made to return to normal operations. While this should happen as quickly as possible it should not be done in haste. Reconstitution should have its own phases and have leadership involvement.

If this is a community going through a recovery phase it can mean meeting with FEMA and State emergency management personnel that will advise you on what awards are possible for any damages suffered during the disaster.

As you get deeper into your continuity plan, all these phases will be integrated into the big picture and become clearer.

Check It Out – Since I have mentioned the ready.gov website, I can recommend you go there for more information on the four phases of continuity operations and more details in other related areas.

Quick Tip – When you are looking at your supply-chain it pays to look at how much debt they carry. Many of the energy industries are heavy into debt banking on future operations to relieve this burden. It is a good idea to have redundant or backup plans to suppliers involved in your plan.

Look Who’s Talking – Responded to one survival web site that had people still claiming that bunkers are a viable option for individuals and families. Not so in my opinion. Think about the phases we just talked about and if they could be fit into using a bunker scenario within twelve hours of activation and for thirty days in duration? Gaps, problems with the bunker scenario start popping up quickly and can’t be resolved.

What Do You Think? – Getting a plan started in your community or business depends on you. It depends on you getting it started and getting leaders involved. Leaders have the ability to designate key personnel to work on the continuity plan and make sure it has enough financial backing. Like all long journeys, this one starts with one step…in the right direction.

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