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What county officials need to know about emergency management preparedness

N the last decade, from Jan. 1, 2008 through July 31, 2017, Arkansas has had 21 major disaster declara- tions. From these 21 disasters, Arkansas has received a combined total of $55,542,952.67 for individual as- sistance and $440,770,920.39 for public assistance. Disasters come in all shapes and sizes, they do not have political ties, and they can affect any county at any time. Over the last de- cade, Arkansas has witnessed extensive flooding, devastating tornadoes, ice storms, and an oil spill, and we are patiently waiting on the ever-looming threat of the tectonic plates shifting at the New Madrid fault. County elected officials have a responsibility to help their county weather the storm. Fortunately, many have come before you and many lessons have been learned along the way. As the executive officer of county government, it is primarily the duty of the county judge to deal with disasters; however, disasters can impact the day-to-day functions of any county official. Tis article is dedicated to providing county officials with information needed to prepare for and get through the next disaster that strikes their county. Being unprepared is not an option.


All County Officials Continuity of Operations Plan

Te single most important plan all county officials should be familiar with is their Continuity of Operations plan (COOP), also known as a disaster recovery plan. During a disaster, the county government cannot afford to shut down and cease working; therefore, knowing the COOP is vital to getting county government up and running again quickly and efficiently after a disaster or emergency. A COOP is the effort within individual counties to ensure they can continue to perform their mission essential functions during a wide range of emergencies. It is the initiative that ensures govern- ments, departments, businesses, and agencies are able to continue their essential daily functions. Tis is not an initial response type plan, but rather a detailed, long-term plan that requires planning for any event — natural, man-made, technological threats, and national security emergency — causing a county to relocate its operations to an alternate or secondary site to assure continuance of its essential functions. A valuable plan addresses orders of succession, delegations of authority, continuity facilities, continuity communications, essential records management, human resources, testing, training, exercising, devolution, and reconstitution. Te Ar- kansas Continuity of Operations Program provides a meth- odology, hardware, software, training, and user assistance for


Research Corner

the development, maintenance, and testing of disaster recovery plans for Arkansas agencies, boards, commissions, school dis- tricts, counties, and cities. Tese plans are intended to ensure that essential services will continue to be provided after any disrup- tive event. Information regarding training and planning from the Arkansas Continuity of Opera- tions Program can be found at erationsProgram.aspx. One of the most important aspects of a COOP is having a backup facility to which government can relocate and recover data if the primary facility is damaged or destroyed. Tere are three types of backup sites: cold sites, warm sites, and hot sites. Cold sites are typically empty operational spaces with basic facilities like air conditioning, power, and communica- tion lines. A hot site is a duplicate of the primary facility, with full computer systems and backups of data, and it can often be brought up to full production immediately. Warm sites fall in between hot and cold sites. Tese are not bare- bones facilities, but recovery may be delayed data is retrieved from the remote backup site. Tese backup sites can be rented, obtained through mutual aid agreements, or might already be owned by the county, but they should be 15 or more miles away from the primary site to lessen the chance of a disaster affecting the primary and backup facilities. Regard- less of what type of backup site the county uses, it is crucial to always keep an updated backup of all records and data. Records and data should be backed up every day and officials should be able to recover them from a remote location to ensure the county government will continue to run smoothly through disastrous times. Disaster recovery plans are so important that Ark. Code Ann. § 10-4-424 authorizes the Arkansas Legislative Audit to conduct audits of all or any part of the information systems or operations of any entity of the state or political subdivision of the state. Information systems audits evaluate an entity’s information processing systems, including the entity’s disaster recovery plan. Ark. Code Ann. § 10-4-424 also requires all contracts between counties and vendors for information systems or other computer services to contain a provision permitting Arkansas Legislative Audit access and authority to audit computer applications supplied by vendors. For more

Blake Gary Law Clerk


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