Business Continuity Planning is the process whereby organizations ensure the maintenance of critical operations when confronted with adverse events such as natural disasters, technology failures, human errors, or terrorism. The objectives of a business continuity plan are to minimize loss to the organization, continue to serve customers, and maintain administrative operations.
The Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is executed after health, life, and safety issues are addressed. The Emergency Operations Plan addresses these issues via a structured process for emergency response.
Good stewardship requires that we understand and anticipate the events that could threaten our mission, and plan ahead so that our institution can recover quickly. Business continuity planning addresses that need. A business continuity plan describes:
• How we might carry on our teaching, research, service, and support functions under conditions of diminished resources - loss of space, loss of equipment, loss of IT infrastructure, loss of some of our people.
• How we might rapidly resume these functions if they’ve been interrupted by an unplanned event.
• How we can prepare. A good business continuity plan will include a to-do list for our readiness. We call this an “Action Item List.” Action items are things that we can do now to limit our vulnerability and to make it easier to recover. Our action items usually include low-hanging fruit that can be done inexpensively, as well as actions that we can’t afford now, but can be considered for future allocations of resources.
Why is this important?
Any prolonged disruption of our teaching and research poses a threat to the education of our students and the research of our faculty. Hence a quick recovery from any disaster or disruption is of paramount importance.
Our business continuity goal is to continue teaching, research, and public service through any crisis event; or if that is not possible, to resume our teaching, research, and service functions within 30 days of any interruption. This does not mean that every building will be open, every class will be taught, and research will be humming along as before. It does mean that core classes must be taught, that a substantial number of research projects must be back underway, and that students, faculty and the citizens of Texas see recovery happening quickly and competently.
Does business continuity planning focus on big disaster only?
Absolutely not. Disaster-readiness is good management. Many of the practices that prepare us for a large disaster also prepare us for lesser events. Proper backup reduces all data risks; a handy emergency phone list can serve normal needs as well as emergency needs; proper training and cross-training of staff are fundamental to daily operations.
Why do departments need to do this planning? Why not do one campus plan that covers everything?
Preparing for disaster requires the engagement of all levels of the organization. The continuity planning tool assists departments in general preparedness (computer backups, phone lists, etc.) as well as disaster preparedness. Hence, each department needs to complete their own plan. In addition, departments frequently identify action items that are properly the responsibility of the campus leadership to carry out (and these action items will be forwarded upstream to become the responsibility of the administration.)