Does your local government or business have a COOP? Anticipating potential disasters and learning the lessons from others’ unfortunate plights are the primary goals of Tazewell County’s COOP, or Continuity of Operations Plan. Planning, preventing, mitigating and reacting in an informed manner are all keys to success.

Image a powerful tornado striking the courthouse or a major fire ravaging the clerk’s office. What then? Did we have the foresight to back up all of our files at an off-site location? Is there an alternative site to conduct criminal trials or obtain a marriage license? These questions–and hundreds of others–are what an effective and up-to-date COOP attempt to answer before disaster strikes.

In Tazewell County, the plan is being written by all elected and appointed department heads, with the coordination and leadership provided by Emergency Management and Preparedness Director Dawn Cook. We have all the employees involved in developing scenarios, writing the plans and communicating those out to everyone before problems arise. We try to involve as many people as possible because everyone needs to do their part in the event of a disaster.

Tazewell County also maintains a website to assist anyone in preparing their own COOP (tazewellesda.org). There are four primary steps that we follow in preparing for any potential situation. Step one is asking yourself, “What could happen to us?” Tornados, computer viruses, fires or widespread outbreaks of sickness are but a few. Step two is actually creating the plan to deal with each of the scenarios. What is each person’s responsibility and role in the event of a disaster? The third step is developing a complete checklist that you can work through step by step. Finally, practicing and maintaining your plan is critical in keeping these plans fresh in your employee’s minds.

There are many benefits that our county derives from a current Continuity of Operations Plan beyond the obvious one of maintaining the operations of our local government. The anticipation of potential problems protects our employees and the citizens who rely on our services. When people know what to do and where to go, they can avoid the chaos and tragedy that can occur in unplanned situations. Additionally, our insurance carriers can provide lower rates when they know we have thought through each situation and tried to mitigate potential liabilities. Lower insurance rates translate into lower taxes, and that benefits all the citizens of Tazewell.

Central Illinois has experienced its share of disasters over the years, including tornados, floods and major power outages. Will your business or local government be prepared when these occur? I believe that Tazewell County is well-positioned to deal with these challenges, and we constantly strive to improve, prepare and learn. If you have not instituted an effective COOP for your local government or business, I would strongly encourage you to start today before you find yourself in the midst of disaster. iBi