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Continuity of Operations Planning bill passes state House


Legislation mandating state agencies to establish continuity of operations planning requirements was approved by the state House of Representatives on March 2, with a bipartisan vote of 81-16. The legislation now heads to the Senate. The bill is a priority of Major General Bret D. Daugherty, The Adjutant General in charge of the Washington Military Department.

The legislation is House Bill 1047.

Our original blog post is below:

What if an earthquake hit Washington state and made many state government buildings unusable?

How would food assistance be distributed?  How would court functions operate? How would payroll be issued?

Major General Bret D. Daugherty, The Adjutant General in charge of the Washington Military Department, testified before the House Public Safety Committee on Jan. 14, urging approval of legislation which would require state agencies to establish continuity of operations planning requirements.

The Legislation is prime sponsored by Rep. Roger Goodman, chairman of the House Public Safety Committee, and the House measure lists 12 other representatives as a co-sponsor.  Daugherty noted that the legislation is also “backed by an overwhelming number of state agencies, lawmakers and associations.”

“It’s not a surprise that this bill has gotten so much support,” Daugherty testified. “It’s commonsense legislation that has little cost to the state and greatly enhances our state’s preparedness in the event of a disaster. Continuity of operations planning is critical to ensure essential services can be delivered to citizens in the event of an emergency or a disaster and, as mentioned, we all know a catastrophic earthquake is in our future, one that could shut down our government buildings or make access to our government facilities all but impossible. At the same time, we have citizens that rely on important government services and we will need them even more following a disaster. Health care. Food assistance. Child welfare checks. It’s vital these services are not disrupted following a statewide emergency to ensure the health and well-being of all those we serve.”

Rep. Goodman asked Daugherty to elaborate on how the planning process would look like.

Daugherty, who is in charge of the Washington Military Department including its Emergency Management Division, said the process to look at continuity of operations started back in 2009, following a big ice storm.

“How do you provide services if the electricity is out?” Daugherty mused. “Is there an alternate site you can move to? How will you staff it? Those types of things are what are addressed in a continuity of operations plans plan.”

A House Bill report notes that Gov. Jay Inslee issued a directive in 2013 requiring state executive branch organizations to provide essential functions and services during an emergency or disaster and noted that it was essential that each individual agency, board, commission and council develop a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) for their organization.

Daugherty said that by enshrining the requirement in state law, it will compel state agencies led by elected officials to also move forward with critical planning efforts and ensure plans are continually updated during future administrations.

Daugherty said the only fiscal impact would be one full-time employee at the Washington Military Department to provide technical assistance and help the different agencies, which is already in Gov. Inslee’s proposed budget.

“By passing this into state law, we think we can get everyone on board,” Daugherty testified.

Barnaby Dow, the chairman of the Washington State Emergency Management Association’s legislative committee and the external affairs director for King County Emergency Management, also testified in favor of the bill.

“In January 2012, I opened the door to our emergency coordination facility in Renton and there was half an inch of ice on the ground,” Dow testified. “We know we have a problem. We understand we have to get it together and decide quickly how we’re going to open our doors or not the following day and how do we bring the services to our constituents? …. From running the buses to where to tell people with court cases where to go. That is what the COOP plan does in real life. King County has just gotten all of its departments to tune up COOP plans and include all the other agencies and elected officials we have. We complement the Emergency Management Division and Major General Daugherty for taking the lead on this and we think it will be of real benefit, not only for their resources, but if we’ve all adopted the same discipline, we can communicate better if we have to communicate between state agencies and local agencies.”