We must be prepared for the worst — 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 (flu 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 (including updating and testing on an annual basis) a business continuity plan. The University of Illinois Police Department Office of Campus Emergency Management is available and eager to assist you in your continuity planning efforts.
Why do I need 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 work? 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.
How do I get started?
There is some information you will need to gather before you launch into the planning process.
First, you will need 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.
You will need a list of 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.
You will need 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.
You will need a full 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).
And you may need a hand — the University of Illinois Police Department Office of Campus Emergency Management is always available to help. Check the “Where can I get help?” section below.
How do I merge this information into a 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. Our campus version is called Illinois Ready and is available at: https://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.
A brief FAQ for Illinois Ready is available here: https://illinois.kuali.co/ready/help/faqs.
Videos from Kuali and member schools are available here: https://www.kuali.co/products/continuity-planning/.
Hands-on training and assistance are available in the “Where can I get help?” section below.
What do I do with this completed plan?
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. You will need to provide access to key members of your team.
You will need 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. You will also need an operations team to coordinate and implement all of the recovery work — they will be the ones working long hours during recovery.
Your continuity plan needs to be tested. 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 — for our environment this is unlikely). The University of Illinois Police Department Office of Campus Emergency Management will 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.
Where can I get help?
The University of Illinois Police Department Office of Campus Emergency Management will provide you hands-on training at your office and is available for answering questions or providing guidance throughout the entire process — either in person (more involved problems strategies for larger departments or colleges) or via phone/email (quick and easy answers). Contact the University of Illinois Police Department at 217-333-1216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is this required?
Business continuity planning is required for all units by Policy number FO-14 of the University of Illinois Campus Administrative Manual: As part of the University’s commitment to provide a safe and secure environment for all students, employees, and visitors to the Urbana-Champaign campus, an emergency action plan shall be developed, implemented, and updated at least annually for each building or facility that is owned or leased by the University, specifically in the areas occupied by University employees. In addition, all colleges, departments and units on campus shall develop, implement, and update at least annually a business continuity plan that is available for employee review. Both the emergency action plan and the business continuity plan are intended to be used in conjunction with the campus emergency operations plan in responding to emergencies and/or disasters affecting the University.