What is the designated survivor? What to know about government's contingency plan during State of the Union

WASHINGTON -- Andrew Cuomo has done it.

Eric Holder has done it.

Even former Vice President Dick Cheney has done it.

All have served as "designated survivors," skipping major events including the State of the Union and preparing to assume power in the event of a disaster.

The Kiefer Sutherland-led ABC drama "Designated Survivor" may have brought the practice of a designated survivor into the mainstream, but it has been going on for decades. The designated survivor is typically a cabinet-level official who is over the age of 35 and a U.S.-born citizen.

Before he was New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo was the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. In 1999, during President Bill Clinton's State of the Union Address, Cuomo was selected to be the designated survivor.

"You have the Secret Service with you, you have what they call the football with you-the communications devices-because if it happened, you would immediately be at war," Cuomo told ABC7NY. "You're accompanied by numerous secret service members and Army officials, vehicles. It really makes you think how quickly the situation could get so bad, how fragile this whole system is and how fragile the world is."

For President Trump's 2020 State of the Union address, Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt was appointed as the designated survivor.

This post was originally published in 2018 and has been updated.
Copyright © 2022 KABC Television, LLC. All rights reserved.