A Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) documents how your department or business unit will perform essential operations during an emergency situation or long-term disruption, which might last from two days to several weeks. The plan identifies mission-critical functions, departmental communication methods, and alternate personnel, systems and locations. Each University department needs a COOP to ensure the University can respond effectively to a variety of situations.
The COOP planning process focuses on two key questions:
- ❖ What operations performed by the department are essential to the University community? Such operations might include providing food and shelter, utilities, security services, communication and computing devices, payroll, etc.
- ❖ What resources are required to continue those essential operations during an emergency or disruption?
Department Continuity Planner
Recruiting a department continuity planner is highly recommended to manage your continuity plan. It is important to designate a person in the department, preferably a staff member who has a good relationship/rapport with department heads and leaders. The department continuity planner will need to identify key information within the department and will be responsible for building and maintaining the continuity plan in Veoci with support from the Office of Emergency Management.
Although building the continuity plan will require more time in the beginning, this is not a full-time position. Eventually, it will be a periodic, part-time assignment of updating documents, contact information, and annually reviewing the plan. A backup continuity planner is advised who can fill in when the primary is unavailable.
The role is part project manager, part group facilitator. In essence, all levels of the department, school or business unit will be involved in the planning process. The dialogue around business continuity should circulate among upper and middle managers, associate and assistant deans, key functional managers, building coordinators and other support staff.
1. Assign a Department Continuity Planner.
A department continuity planner is responsible for building and managing your department-specific continuity plan. This is not a full-time job, but you will need to designate a person who knows each piece of your operations. A backup is recommended in case the primary is unavailable. An effective lead is usually a staff member who has access to department heads and leaders. They should begin by becoming acquainted with the planning process in Veoci, locate vital records, contact lists, and specialized equipment critical for your department to operate during an emergency.
2. Build your continuity plan.
A continuity plan template is available in Veoci and uses a straightforward series of questions to build your continuity plan. Veoci allows the planner to access and build their department-specific continuity plan at their own speed. Your continuity planner will need to identify key information within your department including a list of all your department’s essential functions. This is your framework to help everyone know what to do instead of panicking. With the help of the Office of Emergency Management, the process is simple and once completed can be easily distributed to your department.
3. Have your plan reviewed.
The Office of Emergency Management will review your plan and provide feedback. As this is a living document, your continuity plan will always need to be updated and reviewed. Officially, your continuity plan will need to be reviewed on an annual basis, but your plan will undergo many updates and revision between review cycles.
4. Pursue the completion of action items, and annually review/update your plan.
As you develop your plan, you’ll have several opportunities to identify action items for improving continuity. Most of the planning process involves documenting your department’s current level of preparedness, but the action items are specific tasks for improving your department’s level of preparedness. The Office of Emergency Management prepares an annual report on the continuity planning program for senior leaders that includes plan status (current, in progress, due for review), incidents requiring plan implementations, and completed action items.
Developing a continuity plan is an interdisciplinary exercise. Collaboration across and within departments will be critical to building a sustainable, meaningful, and robust plan. Rather than simply engaging in your own business area, reach out to other dependent and partner organizations.
Here are some questions to consider in this process:
- ❖ What essential functions does your department provide?
- ❖ Are there alternate work sites identified? What work can be done in the event of a loss of a building? How about with the loss of personnel? How about in the event of loss of network connectivity?
- ❖ Does your department have an updated contact list? Is it available offline?
- ❖ What special equipment, access or system requirements does your department need to function? This includes laptops, desktops, workspace, network access, laboratory equipment, machinery.
- ❖ What websites/vendors are critical for your department to continue operations?
- ❖ Are your vital records backed up?
- ❖ Is there a designated Order of Succession for your department/unit? Is there a Delegation of Authority created?
- ❖ Identify upstream and downstream dependencies.