Update on NFPA 1600 2013 Edition

Work on the 2013 edition of NFPA 1600 "Standard on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs" is well underway. The technical committee met in Orlando in late March to continue the research and development of what will become the sixth edition of the standard. The technical committee is also asking for public input for new content or revisions to existing text.

Technical Committee
The technical committee that writes NFPA 1600 was formed in 1991 by the National Fire Protection Association, a 115 year old non-profit organization dedicated to reducing the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life. It includes up to 36 principal, voting members plus alternates representing a broad spectrum of private sector companies, and federal, state, and local government. In addition to the principal and alternate committee members, the committee has formed numerous task groups comprised of non-member, subject matter experts to research and develop content for the standard. The standard is written in accordance with NFPA's ANSI accredited standards development process ensuring there is wide participation and consensus.

The committee is sensitive to the balance between writing prescriptive requirements and writing a standard that is widely applicable and not overly burdensome. Achieving this balance has resulted in just over six pages of concise requirements in chapters 1 through 8 and numerous annexes, which provide explanatory and supporting information. This approach continues with the 2013 edition.

Changes for the 2013 Edition
The technical committee has organized 14 task groups to research new content and revisions for the 2013 edition. Task groups are developing new and revised language on family preparedness, information technology, measurement, partnerships, and requirements for small "entities." In addition, other task groups are working to expand the annexes, which provide nonmandatory guidance for users.

Recognizing that the availability of members of emergency management and business continuity teams is dependent on the preparedness of these employees, their families, and their homes, a task group on family preparedness was organized. The task group has drafted text to address the need for family preparedness (which will probably appear in the body of the standard) and additional explanatory text that will be included in the non-mandatory annexes.

Information technology is essential to every organization, so a task group of IT professionals was organized to review existing text on risk assessment, business impact analysis, recovery strategies, and the annexes to ensure that text adequately and appropriately addresses current and emerging technologies. The task group has submitted recommendations for additional text to be added to the body of the standard and additional supporting guidance in the annexes.

The 2010 edition of NFPA 1600 was reordered to follow a program development and continuous improvement process. A crosswalk between the program elements of NFPA 1600 and the ordering of a management system standard was introduced with the 2010 edition. The committee is taking this effort to the next level by rewriting Annex C to become a standalone management system standard that can be adopted by the entity in place of chapters 1 – 8.

Standards alone do not achieve preparedness. NFPA 1600 calls for the creation of a program committee of persons to develop the program and keep it current. For the 2013 edition, a task group has been researching how to define competencies for persons involved in the program. Another task group is addressing the subject of "measurement," which is central to the need of determining whether the emergency management and business continuity program meets the needs of the entity. At this point in time it remains to be seen whether the committee will vote to accept substantial changes to the requirements of the standard in these two areas. It's likely that supporting and explanatory text will be added to one or more annexes to assist the user of the standard.

The need for a "scalable" standard for smaller organizations was identified following the passage of Title IX of Public Law 110-53 and its language regarding small business preparedness. In response, another task group is writing a draft standard for small entities.

Continuing the evolution of the standard, the committee is looking for requirements that are unclear or incomplete, and this is always an area where users can provide input. Terminology is a challenge within the practice of emergency management and business continuity. A definitions task group continues to look at the use of terms within the standard and the need to include additional definitions—even though the committee has generally resisted defining words that are adequately defined in the dictionary. Another area of focus is the definition of planning requirements for all phases of the program. Are requirements for plans and procedures clear? If you don't think so, let the committee know.

Public Proposals and Comments Requested
Since its first edition, the technical committee has received hundreds of proposals and comments from professionals that use the standard. The committee is soliciting your input on the 2013 edition. You can download the 2010 edition for free athttp://www.nfpa.org/assets/files//PDF/NFPA16002010.pdf. You can submit your suggestions for additions or revisions online via NFPA's Online Submission System (http://submissions.nfpa.org/onlinesub/onsubmain.php). You can also download, complete, and return a Document Proposal Form (http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files/PDF/CodesStandards/NFPAProposalForm.doc, Microsoft Word format). Instructions for submitting the form via mail, fax, or email are included at the bottom of the form. The deadline for submissions is May 23, 2011. 
The first draft of the 2013 edition will be published for public review by December 23. Once published, public comments on the draft will be accepted until March 2, 2012. Following the second round of public comments the committee will meet to finalize and vote on the draft prior to issuance by NFPA as early as November 2012.

About the Author
Donald L. Schmidt, ARM, CBCP, CBCLA, CEM is the CEO of Preparedness LLC and the chair of NFPA's Technical Committee on Emergency Management and Business Continuity, which is responsible for NFPA 1600. He is the editor of Implementing NFPA 1600, National Preparedness Standard, co-author of Tools & Techniques of Risk Management & Insurance, co-author of Business at Risk: How to Assess, Mitigate, and Respond to Terrorist Threats, and contributing author of two other books. He was a member of the interdisciplinary group that wrote the "Framework for Voluntary Preparedness" in response to PL 110-53 and he is a member of the Committee of Experts advising ANAB on the accreditation requirements for voluntary certification of private sector programs under Title IX of PL 110-53. He is a Certified Emergency Manager, Certified Business Continuity Professional, and Certified Business Continuity Lead Auditor.