Contingency plans include specific strategies and actions to deal with specific variances to assumptions resulting in a particular problem, emergency or state of affairs. They also include a monitoring process and “triggers” for initiating planned actions. They are required to help governments, businesses or individuals to recover from serious incidents in the minimum time with minimum cost and disruption.
Business and government contingency plans need to include planning for marketing to gain stakeholder support and understanding. Stakeholders need to be kept informed of the reasons for any changes, the vision of the end result and the proposed plan for getting there. The level of stakeholders' importance and influence should be considered when determining the amount of marketing required, the timescales for implementation and completion, and the overall effectiveness of the plan. If time permits, input and consultation from the most influential stakeholders should be incorporated into the building of any contingency plan as without acceptance from these people any plan will at best encounter limited success.
During times of crisis, contingency plans are often developed to explore and prepare for any eventuality. During the Cold war, many governments made contingency plans to protect themselves and their citizens from nuclear attack. Examples of contingency plans designed to inform citizens of how to survive a nuclear attack are the booklets Survival Under Atomic Attack, Protect and Survive, and Fallout Protection, which were issued by the British and American governments. Today there are still contingency plans in place to deal with terrorist attacks or other catastrophes.
In the United Sates, the Contingency Plans are industrial regulatory requirements for all HAZMAT operations.
EPA through RCRA and EPCRA has defined specific formats for Local Emergency Planning and the National Contingency Plan.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology has published a contingency planning guide for Information Technology Systems (2002).