The National Academies

NCHRP 20-59(21) [Completed]

Continuity of Operations Plans for Transportation Agencies

  Project Data
Funds: $100,000
Research Agency: McCormick Taylor, Inc.
Principal Investigator: Annabelle Boyd
Effective Date: 7/21/2004
Completion Date: 5/31/2005


The Department of Homeland Security, through FEMA's Federal Preparedness Circular 65 (FRP-65), provides guidance to Federal Executive Branch departments and agencies for developing contingency plans for continuity of operations (COOP). COOP planning facilitates the performance of department/agency essential functions during any emergency or situation that may disrupt normal operations. The FRP-65 guidance, however, is federal in nature and not necessarily appropriate for state and local agencies.

Many state DOTs and public transportation agencies have emergency response plans that address immediate operational situations; those plans typically do not include contingencies for carrying out emergency response plans from alternate facilities or over an extended period. COOP plans describe how an organization will prepare for, respond during, and recover from a disruption in internal operations whether caused by severe weather, other natural or man-made disasters, or malevolent attack. COOP plan implementation, which may include relocation or reassignment of essential functions, can be triggered through (1) denial of use of facilities, (2) loss of power, (3) loss of telecommunications, (4) suddenly unavailable personnel, or (5) inaccessible information technology systems. There is a need for guidelines and templates for use by state DOTs and public transportation agencies as they develop and maintain up-to-date COOP plans to ensure the ability to implement agency emergency response plans through alternate facilities or over an extended period.


The objective of this project is to develop guidelines for state and local transportation agencies to develop, implement, maintain, train, and exercise COOP capabilities. The guidelines are expected to be applied by designated agency continuity planners using templates to customize COOP plans for their local conditions.

Planning is an essential first step in developing COOP capabilities; an effective plan incorporates activities implementing, maintaining, training, and exercising COOP capabilities. A designated agency continuity planner charged with developing a COOP plan should be able to use the templates and guidelines to draft a COOP plan appropriate for his or her organization. The templates and guidelines should provide a managed and measurable process to ensure continuation of essential operations.

Accomplishment of the objective will require at least the following tasks.


Task 1. Conduct a review of national and international literature and current policies, procedures, and practices for COOP that are potentially transferable to state DOTs and public transportation agencies. This review should include business, state DOT, public transportation, and federal agency practices, and should include a review of COOP plans for organizations with a significant focus on real-time operations such as the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, or the Utah Transit Authority.

Task 2. Review case studies of COOP lessons learned from a range of natural, technological, and man-made extreme events; synthesize those lessons that could have mitigated the adverse effects of the events and should be considered in the COOP guidelines to be developed in Task 4.

Task 3. Based on the information reviewed in Tasks 1 and 2, identify and describe the elements that should be included in the COOP guidelines that will be developed in Task 4. Submit Interim Report 1 for panel review, providing the results of Tasks 1 through 3.

Task 4. Develop draft guidelines and associated methodologies for agency personnel to address key issues in the formulation of a COOP plan.

Task 5. Based on the guidelines developed in Task 4, develop templates to illustrate how the plan may be customized by the designated agency continuity planner.

Task 6. Submit Interim Report 2 for panel review, providing the results of Tasks 4 and 5.

Task 7. Validate the draft templates with at least four entities representing a broad range of facilities and organizational elements (e.g., headquarters, operating facilities such as traffic management or transit control centers, vehicle maintenance facilities, or multimodal transit systems). The goals of Task 7 are (a) for specific entities to evaluate the effectiveness of the guidelines and templates and (b) to demonstrate the ability of a designated agency continuity planner to complete a COOP plan using the supplied guidelines and templates.

Task 8. Submit Interim Report 3 for panel review, incorporating the guidelines and templates revised based on Task 7 results. Include a stand-alone technical memo to the panel reporting the results of the field tests. The technical memo should also provide the contractor's response to panel comments on Interim Report 2.

Task 9. Develop example outreach materials for all agency employees that clarify what a COOP team is, why it is necessary, and the process used to identify COOP team personnel. The materials should clearly convey that, while cooperation by all employees is valued, only a few employees are to be activated on the COOP team.

Task 10. Develop example outreach materials to be used by the designated agency continuity planner to convey to agency leadership the importance of COOP and the resources that need to be committed.

Task 11. Submit a Preliminary Draft Final Report for panel review, including the draft materials developed in Tasks 9 and 10.

Task 12. Submit a Revised Final Report, including revised guidelines, templates, and outreach materials, and appendices of sample COOP plans.

Note on Funding: NCHRP funded the project with $100,000 and TCRP Project J-10F co-funded this project with a matching $100,000.

Status: Completed.

Product Availability: NCHRP Report 525: Surface Transportation Security, Vol. 8: Continuity of Operations (COOP) Planning Guidelines for Transportation Agencies.

To create a link to this page, use this URL: http://apps.trb.org/cmsfeed/TRBNetProjectDisplay.asp?ProjectID=640