It is important to plan for extreme circumstances to ensure your campus unit can continue operating.
Business continuity planning is the best way to ensure your unit can continue providing service in the face of anything that prevents your normal operations, such as natural disasters (a tornado or severe winter storm), human-caused incidents (fire or power outage), epidemics (coronavirus, influenza or meningitis), and other scenarios we cannot foresee. It is impossible to plan for everything, so the university has taken an “all-hazards” approach to continuity planning — meaning we plan for restoring services no matter what the cause.
The university and all colleges, departments, and units on campus are required to develop and maintain a business continuity plan.
You can start your plan now, or review the guide to getting started below.
What is a continuity plan?
A well-maintained business continuity plan provides the framework for responding during tense, stressful situations. Stop and think for a moment about what you would do if your entire building was gone overnight. How would you stay in operation? The continuity plan provides a road map for getting your unit back up and running and for bringing back a prioritized list of services required to support the university’s missions of learning, discovery, engagement, and economic development.
There is some information you will need to gather before you launch into the planning process:
- Identify a business continuity planner. This is not a full-time job, but you will need to designate a person who knows each piece of your operations. You will also need a backup who can fill in when your primary is unavailable.
- List all your critical business functions, as well as who and what is needed to run each of them. You will need prioritize them based on how long you can afford for them to be down. Think of outages in terms of one day, several days, a week, a month, or even never return to service. Each of us would like everything to be back immediately, but once we start down our list it quickly becomes obvious we will have to prioritize groups of work for our recovery. This is your framework to help everyone know what to do instead of panicking.
- Create a full contact list of all staff, their roles, and if possible other skills they might be able to offer in an emergency. The latter includes assisting another department’s recovery efforts if you were unaffected.
- Take inventory of everything you need to operate: technology (computers, servers, software, outside services); laboratory and/or research equipment; classrooms and any necessary technology; any unique items (for instance, cameras and laminating machines are critical if your unit makes i-Cards, or trained police dogs for the police — things which make your office different from everyone else).
Creating the plan
All three campuses and the system offices of the University of Illinois use the web-based Kuali Ready tool to make composing the plan fairly simple. The Urbana-Champaign campus version is called Illinois Ready is available at illinois.kuali.co.
At first glance, Illinois Ready is asking you for a lot of information, but it is actually straightforward once you have all your information collected. It’s very similar to doing your taxes with web-based software, in that the tool will ask you a series of questions and have your plan ready for you to print at the end. Illinois Ready walks you screen-by-screen through and prepares a PDF document for you at the end.
You can also access frequently asked questions and videos from Kuali.
The continuity plan is designed as a living document — it will become outdated quickly. And that’s OK because it’s a framework, not a detailed operations plan for everything. Here are some things you’ll want to do now that you have a completed plan:
- Provide access to key members of your team.
- Create a policy team to make decisions during recovery. These people will have to deal with questions like whether the documented priorities are exactly what you need at that point in time or where will the funding come from.
- Create an operations team to coordinate and implement all of the recovery work — they will be the ones working long hours during recovery.
- Test your continuity plan. The best-written plans are all missing information, and you want to find the weaknesses through annual tests, not during recovery. These can be table top (discussion-based), exercises (doing the steps in a non-disruptive instance), or drill (actually doing the recovery in place). The Emergency Management Department can work with you for what is appropriate for your situation.
- As a living document, your continuity plan will need to be kept current on at least an annual basis. Your phone numbers in your contact tree change much more frequently than you expect, for one example. The more regularly this is updated, the easier it is to maintain.
The Emergency Management Department will provide you hands-on training at your office and is available for answering questions or providing guidance throughout the entire process — in person, on the phone or by email. Contact the Emergency Management Department at 217-333-1216 or email@example.com.