Continuity Planning Basics …

Ray Sisk, Director, Knox County EMA

Is your jurisdiction ready to continue essential services if an event or disaster interrupts your normal way of doing business?

            How would you continue normal governmental services if your town office is unavailable due to a planned or unplanned event or, worse yet, destroyed by a major disaster?  You probably have most of the answers to these questions within your own staff and among your neighboring towns.    

The Emergency Management community statewide often deals with these issues in the context of natural and man-made disasters. A flood, an ice storm, wildfire or tornado are a few external ways Mother Nature can close the doors to your Town Office or City Hall.

There are others.  A water main break, structure fire, bad flu season or even a planned activity such as a renovation can interrupt services. Maine citizens depend on their local and county governments to issue permits, register automobiles, license animals, provide General Assistance, register deeds, maintain roads, pay bills and employees and a myriad of other services.

                Continuity planning is the formalized process that accompanies thinking and preparing for keeping the proverbial lights on.  In its simplest form, Continuity of Government and Business Continuity planning uses a locally developed range of assumptions such as prolonged loss of office space and/or infrastructure, personnel shortage, limited data management and communications capacities, etc.  The planning process challenges you to consider options and make thoughtful and deliberate decisions in advance. You plan for relocation of staff and services, reconstitution of essential government services and restoration of day to day government business operations aiming to minimize service interruption.

While no plan is perfect; scalability, ability to survive contact with changing conditions, nimbly adapting to compelling variables, and management guidance for competing priorities and potentially scarce resources are a goal.  With good planning, assumptions and decisions can be made in advance regarding what services are essential and must resume today.  Combine that with measures to resume less urgent activities tomorrow or next week, to map a much clearer way forward during times of crisis.  Add infrastructure considerations for alternative siting and relocation of supporting services and you have the makings of a good Continuity Plan.

The process, while not terribly difficult, is deliberate, and requires key staff representing each of your departments to be successful.  Help is available and starts with an orientation of the basics.  On Thursday, May 23rd, Knox County partnering with the Rural Domestic Preparedness Consortium, will host a day-long course titled “Introduction to Continuity of Government Planning for Rural Jurisdictions” in Rockland.  The course runs 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Emergency Management Agency office located at 301 Park Street in Rockland.  Tuition and lunch(!) will be provided at no cost to participants or municipalities.  

To register or for more information on this course offering, contact Knox County EMA at 594-5155 or email us at    

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