The question “What is Personal Continuity?” focuses on the amount of time it takes an individual to effectively manage the safety and security of their family, assets and other secure-base figures during an unexpected event, fulfill assigned workplace roles and responsibilities and to reach a high degree of recovery to pre-event status or conditions afterward.

The term personal continuity or personal preparedness is interchangeable with personal or human resilience.   Evidence from actual disasters and military deployments has underscored family preparedness to be a primary factor in the ability for a first-responder or military member to be available for duty.  As such, much of the information related to bodily continuity centers on family preparedness for disasters, separation and unexpected events.

Personal Preparedness Standards Act

On August 11, 2010, Michigan State Representatives John Espinoza and Gino Polidori, Chair of the Miltiary, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security Committee, co-presented House Bill No 6364, “Personal Preparedness Standards Act” to the Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security.

This model legislation calls upon first-response organization plans to include “personal preparedness measures that ensure the employees of a first responder organization and their families are prepared for the employees to be deployed during acontinuity event”.  Click here to view that Michigan Legislation information.

Growing demand for resilience in standards

Five years after Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. Census Bureau reports the region is only half as populated as it was before the storm.  The slow recovery in Louisiana is not the only impetus behind a recognized need for business continuity plans to evolve from a focus on readiness and survival to resilience.  KPMG reports that 40% of businesses fail following a disaster.  A driving factor remains the time it takes an employee to be available to their employer.  A Mega Group study documented the employee cost for a wide array of industries for every hour an employee is delayed.  For most industries, the cost was more than $1 million per hour.  Moreover, the manner that a corporation manages a disaster has a destiny-determining impact on shareholder value and reputation, effectively moving the burden of risk management from continuity managers to the C-suite.  Family preparedness continues to be a leading causal factor to employee availability.

The most recent ASIS American Standards for Organizational Resilience moves beyond readiness, a philosophy that centered primarily on response during an event and focused narrowly on survival and protection of assets, to resilience.   As standards and agencies evolve to resilience models, the subject of continuity of care and employee availability – and more specifically – the time it takes an employee to be available for duty, continues to be emphasized.

Moreover, ASIS includes personnel in the resilience equation and distinguishes the language between “readiness” and “preparedness”.  In an Executive Analysis Report on a Michigan-based fire department deployed to ground zero, a similar distinction was made, “There is a difference between being ready “to go” and ready “to part”.  Being ready “to go” means having our bag packed, all shots up to date, and other duty essential preparations completed.  Being ready “to part” from your spouse and other family members means being aware of the personal and family issues related to separation, and being prepared to deal as constructively as possible with those issues.”[1]

As stated in the newest ASIS standards: “The challenge goes beyond most emergency response plans or disaster management activities previously deployed.  Organizations now must engage in a comprehensive and systematic process of prevention, preparedness, readiness, mitigation, response, continuity, and recovery.  It is no longer enough to draft a response plan that anticipates disasters or emergency scenarios.  

Today’s threats require the creation of an on-going, dynamic, and interactive process that serves to assure the continuation of an organization’s core activities before, during, and – most importantly – after a major crisis event. [2]” 

In ASIS, procedures for mutual aid as well as the planning consideration for physical and psychological harm to employees, among others, is linked directly to recovery-time objectives.  While ASIS calls for appropriate education, it does not specify what that education might be.  The Department of Defense may have said it best. In a 2004 DOD report, the agency stated “The link between family and mission readiness is clear.”

The Federal Government recognized the link between family and mission readiness when issuing Federal Continuity Directive #1 wherein it calls upon agency plans or procedures that provide guidance to all staff in developing family support plans which will increase personal and family preparedness throughout the organization and support employee availability during a continuity event. [FCD 1 Annex J and A, Page A-4, Bullet #25 ]

CLICK HERE to view the document.

Infrastructure, economic and community resiliency following a continuity event are directly impacted by the resilience of people.

Family: In a post-Katrina report, the need for personal continuity of first-responders such as police, firefighters and paramedics surfaced when 70% of Gulf-Coast responders lost their homes in the flood.  Could police, firefighters and paramedics answer the call of duty if they were also victims of the catastrophe?

Assistant Defense Secretary Paul McHale said of the first-responder gap in personal resilience noted after Hurricane Katrina ”This may well have been a very painful disclosure of a gap in our capability that we must now correct to deal with not only natural disasters, but with terrorist attacks that may be even larger in scope.

Eight months later, Carle Jackson supported this observation in the comprehensive report titled “Managing Catastrophic Events: The Lessons of Katrina, Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement”, which stated: “A major lesson of Katrina ….. is that first responder personnel cannot function at best efficiency if they are worried about their own families. The role of law enforcement, fire, EMS, and other front line personnel is highly stressful. In situations where these local responders are uncertain about the welfare and even survival of their families, that stress level is raised to the breaking point. During Katrina this point was tragically made when a New Orleans police officer committed suicide after finding his family dead in their home. Other officers left their duty assignments to check on and evacuate their families. Such conduct, while not to be condoned, is certainly understandable and predictable. Evacuating and sheltering families ahead of time, or having a preset plan when the disaster is of such a nature as to provide no advance warning, is, therefore, critical to the first responder role.”

In an extensive 2008 study published by Ecology and Society, the psychological response to unexpected events further validated that such behavior is entirely predictable, summarized in the following excerpt: 

Individuals will seek contact with their secure-base figures[3], wherever they are, by whatever means are at hand. Ideally, first responders must know that their own attachment figures will be as safe as possible to function with full effectiveness[4]

Business: Continuity of operations relies on people.  However, a human resilience gap persists for critical team members that businesses rely on to manage catastrophes and to restore operations and service. Forrester® reported that 75% of businesses that may have emergency preparedness and business continuity plans had not accounted for the human resiliency factor[5], even though the United States Department of Homeland Security emphasizes the importance of businesses returning to productivity as quickly as possible so as to stabilize the economies in the devastated areas.

According to a national survey by TNS Info-Global, being caught by surprise resulted in 43% of small businesses never reopening following a disaster. Of those that did reopen, only 29 % were still operating two years later.

The U.S. Small Business Administration reported that small businesses represent more than 99 percent of all employers; provide approximately 75 percent of the net new jobs added to the economy; and represent 97 percent of all U.S. exporters. Unfortunately, small to medium-sized businesses are also the most vulnerable in the event of an emergency.

According to an October 2005 survey of small businesses conducted by The Ad Council, 92 percent of respondents said that it is very important or somewhat important for businesses to take steps to prepare for a catastrophic disaster, such as an earthquake, hurricane or terrorist attack. However, only 39 percent said that their company has a plan in place in the event of such a disaster. Qualitative research with this audience demonstrated that even though many acknowledge the value of preparedness, they see time, workforce and money constraints prohibiting them from developing a business continuity plan.

Personal Recovery Concepts’ white paper “The significance of holistic human resiliency to interdependent continuity planning” takes an in-depth look at the issues of people continuity in disaster recovery.

To view this whitepaper, click on the link below:


[1] Ohio Air National Guard, 2004

[2] ASIS SPC.1 2009, Annex A – American National Standard for Security

[3] Secure-base figures or attachment figures are defined as loved ones, dependant individuals, or any individuals whose safety and security is important to the person

[4] Masten, A. S., and J. Obradovic. 2007. Disaster preparation and recovery: lessons from research on resilience in human development. Ecology and Society 13(1): 9

[5] Forrester Research, Dec. 2006, Workforce Continuity – a Critical Strategy in your Business Continuity Plan

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