COOP – Not Where Chickens Roost

John Biddison
Senior Emergency Response Coordinator

While the weather’s been quite mild on the East Coast so far this winter, that might change by the end of the week, according to weather forecasts.

NRC Icy frontPeople who’ve lived around Washington, D.C., for a while likely recall 2010’s back-to-back blizzard “Snowmageddon” that limited the city’s ability to function. The NRC, along with the other federal agencies headquartered near Washington, is ready to keep working in situations even worse than that.

How? We use COOP.

In “government speak,” COOP means Continuity of Operations – how the federal government keeps working even if potential weather or other severe events in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area disrupt the normal operations of a federal government agency.

The NRC tests its detailed COOP plan periodically. This includes participating in an annual federal COOP exercise, which takes many months to plan and several days to carry out.

Under the NRC COOP plan, NRC staff finds alternate places and ways to continue their work – this might mean staff members telework or physically relocate to alternate work stations. Staff in other locations can also take on new or different responsibilities. Certain vital mission functions that absolutely must continue are pre-identified. Other less critical functions might be temporarily suspended.

The NRC is revising and improving its plan based on new information, such as input from the last national exercise. For instance, we are updating information technology plans, enhancing decision-making, and providing our staff with additional guidance. We also recently enhanced our emergency communications with our staff and the public.

Planning for COOP is one of the most important things the federal government and the NRC does. It’s planning we all hope never to have to use, but it’s vital to have during unexpected events or emergencies.

Putting Crisis Communication Plans to the Test

jicPublic Affairs staffers Roger Hannah, Stephanie West and Joey Ledford work together in the Joint Information Center during the national level exercise dubbed Southern Exposure 2015. It included dozens of federal, state and local agencies working together under a scenario of a simulated nuclear power plant accident in South Carolina. For the full story, go here.

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