Continuity of Operations
Mission-Critical Staff: Additional Information
If You Only Have a Little Time
This step is a foundational element that forms the basis of critical continuity of operations capabilities. For this reason, it is recommended you take the time to complete each of the action steps listed below. If your staff doesn’t show up ready to work during an emergency, it will be impossible to maintain the continuity of your operations. By notifying your mission-critical staff of their continuity roles and providing them support and resources they need to perform those roles, you are increasing the probability of having the human capital to sustain the continuity of your critical functions during emergencies.
If You Have More Time to Spend
Extra time can be used to further enhance your staff’s ability to perform their continuity roles by promoting personal preparedness planning among staff or expanding telework options like Virtual Private Network (VPN), which can be of use in the event staff can’t make it into the office.
Where This Leads You
Now that you have identified and notified your mission-critical staff, you can:
- Develop a workforce deployment system. Structure this system to leave your mission-critical staff in place to sustain critical services while redeploying your lower-priority staff to support emergency response operations.
- Improve your ability to decide whether to redeploy staff to emergency response operations or leave them to support critical services. (See Resource Management for more.)
- Enhance your ability to communicate with mission-critical staff during emergencies. Try enrolling them in a department-managed text messaging service or obtaining Government Emergency Telecommunications (GETS) cards.
Pitfalls to Avoid
Don’t be too broad when targeting your mission-critical staff communications and education campaign. While every person in your organization is essential to your services and will have a role to fill in an emergency, some roles are more critical than others. Before you default to an organization-wide emergency responder awareness campaign, figure out which staff roles management has unique expectations of. For example, you may have different expectations of how an administrative support person in your HIV program will perform in an emergency than you do of your Medical Director. Target your emergency responder awareness campaign at those staff members of whom you have unique expectations first (roles like your Medical Director) before expanding the campaign to all staff (that is, if resources allow).
Some organizations are hesitant to initiate conversations about priority levels with staff because of discomfort that may be caused with saying one person’s role is more critical to continuity of operations than another’s, but this is the reality and those that hold the critical roles need to be those that are the most prepared.
Don’t over-count your mission-critical staff. Make sure your list of staff for your priority 1 and 2 services represents an appropriate proportion of your total workforce. So, if you have 5 mission-critical services and 15 non-critical services and you end up identifying 75% of your workforce as mission-critical, you’ve got too many people as mission-critical staff and should take another look at your list.
How You Know You Got It Right
- Unions, management and staff work together to ensure this crucial step towards sustaining critical services during emergencies is accomplished correctly.
- Staff voice their appreciation of the clarity regarding your expectations of them.
- During a disaster, a higher rate of mission-critical staff remain at or report to work.
Considerations for Rural Health Departments
- In a small department, all staff are critical. Methods described in this tool work best for a department where positions are dedicated to a single service, and may not represent an optimum approach for small agencies.
- You will need to integrate your continuity staffing with your public health surge plans since both your day to day functions and emergency functions are staffed from the same pool.
- Consider using the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) volunteers as an additional resource to sustain critical services.