Practice sessions spur COOP programs

Training to ensure continuity of operations requires long hours of planning and organization for state governments. To aid this effort, state leaders found that  training that surprised participants helped agencies and legislatures think about emergency planning.

These exercises are usually performed through tabletop role playing. Agency heads figured out what their respective organizations must do to minimize the damage from a potential disaster. The exercises are conducted without warning.

“You’re called into a room [and] you’re just told what the disaster is and you have 30 minutes to figure out what your steps are,” Lorrie Tritch, Iowa's Administrative Services Department administrator, said while serving on a panel at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers midyear meeting May 1.

Tritch said successive surprise exercise helped state agency leaders learn their roles and organize more efficiently. Leaders also figured out what redundant services could be consolidated.

These training exercises bolster important organizational meetings. Tritch said  her state held a Jan. 8 kickoff meeting that included the state government’s first tabletop exercise. The meeting helped agency leaders learn what information technology infrastructure they needed to procure and how to do it without overspending.

“[You’ll know] where you buy services or have services that you rely on from other entities so you know what their plans are and you can build their plans into your plan,” Tritch said.

Those details convinced state legislators in Iowa to increase budgets for COOP planning.

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