Things To Know As You Plan
To plan effectively in the event of a disaster, we need to know what we can expect from other
units and from the campus. The items that follow will help you coordinate your planning with
- Human Resources/Personnel Issues
- Depositing of Payments
- Emergency Contact Lists
- Social Distancing
- Working from Home
- Emergency Generators
- Campus Web Server
- Employee Relations/Equal Opportunity/Training & Development
- Feeding Students and Essential Staff
1. Human Resources
Performing our jobs under unusual circumstances gives rise to numerous staff issues. The
Human Resources Office will provide information to address some of those issues, and provide
advice to managers and employees. Because of the wide variability of possible conditions
during a time of crisis, and the complexity of some of the issues and processes, HR will provide
specific communication and training to campus managers and employees as needed. This will
include the provision of data-gathering forms as temporary workarounds if existing data systems
should be inoperable. In a time of crisis, it is extremely important that HR is able to contact
employees. Therefore, employees must maintain accurate emergency contact information in
The Payroll Office is prepared to keep paychecks flowing despite any adverse conditions. All
campus departments should make every effort, in times of crisis, to process and report payroll
data to the Payroll Office as you normally do. To whatever extent this becomes impossible, the
Payroll Office will compensate. Under a worst-case scenario, the Payroll Office is prepared to
issue current payroll checks using prior-period data, with the understanding that corrections will
be necessary when systems are back up and running. Direct deposit of paychecks is an important
strategy in times of crisis. Depending on conditions, distribution of paper checks may encounter
difficulties and delays. Presuming that the financial institutions are functioning, employees
utilizing direct deposit will have higher assurance of being paid on time. In view of this, it is
recommended that all departments doing continuity planning include an Action Item to "urge any
faculty or staff still receiving paper checks to sign up for direct deposit."
3. Depositing of Payments
Campus departments that receive payments (cash, check, or credit card) should plan as follows:
- If permitted, continue to receive record and deposit the monies using normal processes.
- If that is not possible, expect a communication from the Comptroller's department instructing you how to proceed.
- The instructions from the Comptroller's department will depend on current conditions and may include manual recording of information if the Business Office is not operating, and direct deposit to the bank is not functioning.
- Under no circumstances should holding of cash and checks in your department be utilizedin lieu of approved processes.
The ability to make purchases quickly and easily post-disaster is essential for every department's
recovery. Following any major disruptive event, the Purchasing Department will proactively
inform the campus about the status of campus procurement systems.
5. Emergency Contact Lists
- To the extent that systems are operating normally, the normal procurement policies,procedures & restrictions will continue to apply.
- To the extent that systems are not working, the Purchasing Department will issue instructions on how to proceed.
- If the normal Purchase Order and Purchase Requisition systems are not operable, the TAMU-CC Procurement Card may be the principal mechanism for making purchases for a temporary period. Should this happen, the Purchasing Department may act to raise card limits and/or remove restrictions on types of purchases. The Purchasing Departmentcurrently has 10 "emergency" procurement cards to be distributed to departments needing to purchase emergency equipment, supplies and services in the event additional procurement cards are required.
- All departments doing continuity planning should examine their purchasing process: Do you have backups assigned for your FAMIS creators, reviewers and approvers in case some staff are not available? Are these backups really capable of taking over if needed?
- All departments should also examine their Procurement Card capability: Do you have enough staff with the TAMU-CC Procurement Cards to cope when some are absent(remember that Procurement Cards, like all credit cards, can generally be used only by the individual to whom they are issued).
- During time of crisis, proper record-keeping for the TAMU-CC Procurement Card purchases must be continued. The risks inherent in this system make diligent conformance to procedures even more important at such times.
In a time of crisis, it is extremely important that HR is able to contact employees. Therefore,employees must maintain accurate emergency contact information in HRConnect. In addition,each department should maintain its own emergency contact list. These lists should be:
- in a format of your choosing
- held by enough people to be useful
- treated as confidential
- kept securely at home and at work
- updated at least twice a year.
The following is a guide to the content of those lists:
6. Social Distancing
- Home and/or cell phone
- Person to contact in emergency
- Contact information for that person
During a contagious-illness epidemic, social distancing will be a widely-used strategy. That term means, quite simply, "do everything possible to keep people out of contagion range." Schools and workplaces may close, large and small gatherings may be discouraged, and transportation systems (planes, trains, buses) may be restricted. When such an event threatens, social distancing may be advised in anticipation, even while we continue our daily work. Should the campus eventually close for a period, there are still many functions that cannot simply be "turned off": housing of students who cannot get home, certain critical lab research, campus security, maintenance of environmental and utility systems, and others. For continuity planning, the social-distancing challenge is as follows — we must make sure that we have the communications systems that will allow us to function as needed while keeping our people safely away from each other. The good news is that contagious illnesses do not attack communication systems. We can look toward increased use of:
- conference calls
- web meetings
- telecommuting (also called work from home)
- electronic dispatching of service personnel
- similar strategies
Our continuity planning should include assurance that we will be able to use such strategies
when needed. Visualize how your unit might implement social distancing while continuing to
7. Working from Home
Working from home is a powerful strategy for functioning during crisis, as well as a very useful
strategy for normal times. In practice, much remains to be done to develop this capability. An
entire screen of the Islander Ready Continuity Planning Tool is devoted to "getting specific"
about who in your unit is currently able to work from home. As you plan, think what your unit
(or the campus) could do to increase the number of staff and faculty who could do at least part of
their work from home. Do your employees have remote desktop enabled through the Remote
Desktop Gateway or do your employees have the virtual privacy network (VPN) downloaded to
their home computers? Have they enabled their work desktop computers to accept Remote
Desktop Login from their home computer and know the name of their work computer? In a
disaster will their desktop on campus be on for them to use Remote Desktop to work remotely?
When some disruptive event befalls us, we'll need to have people working from home — but
we'd best learn how to do that now, not during the crisis. Contact the IT Help Desk to work with
you to get staff who need to work remotely configured in advance. IT needs to know about how
many people might need to use remote technologies so that we can ensure the servers to support
it are large enough to handle the capacity.
In this era of just-in-time procurement and delivery, few of us keep much inventory. As you
plan, ask what equipment and consumables your unit absolutely must have in order to carry on
your critical functions. If a few weeks without deliveries is unthinkable, develop an inventory
9. Emergency Generators
Many of our buildings are equipped with emergency generators but many are not. Here is what you should know about these:
10. Campus Web Server
- Emergency generators in almost all cases are designed to turn on automatically when normal power fails. There will, however, be a several-second delay while the engine starts, so equipment in your building will shut down (unless protected by your own UPS - uninterruptible power supply - system). Learn in advance whether critical equipment,especially in labs, needs to be manually restarted after the generator is running.
- The generators will run indefinitely as long as someone replenishes the diesel fuel. At TAMU-CC, the Facilities Services Department will take care of this, presuming their suppliers have fuel to sell, and deliveries are possible.
- Generators practically never power entire buildings - only critical circuits & equipment.If your lab has critical freezers or other equipment, check that they are plugged into an "emergency outlet". These are often color-coded: orange in older buildings and red in newer ones. For any questions or concerns, contact the Facilities Services Department as necessary.
- Generator systems need periodic testing and maintenance. At TAMU-CC, General Auto-Starts are done monthly, should failure occur during testing, no power will be lost. Yearly maintenance and service is performed on all Generator Systems by an outside contractor. We do not test individual circuits back to the outlet, as campus personnel are quick to notify us if an outlet is malfunctioning.
In the event of a major disaster and the primary campus web site is down, there is an emergency web server located off site which will be utilized. This is a minimal website, primarily used for emergency communication. Marketing and Communications controls the content on that offsite web server.
11. Employee Relations/Equal Opportunity/Training & Development
- As with personal emergencies/stressful events, work related emergencies will inevitably create highly stressful situations, which challenge and strain even the best working relationships. Accordingly, anticipate this will be the case in dealing with employees, students, and/or off campus clients. Expect people’s nerves and emotions to be heightened and in many cases “raw.” Thus, disagreements, arguments, and conflict can result from situations, which in ordinary cases such tension would not result. More patience, understanding, and better communication will aid in maintaining our high standards of employee relations amidst the crisis.
12. Feeding Students and Essential Staff:
- Complaints will still be a reality, and will increase during an emergency. We do not get a "pass" on handling and addressing complaints. Some probable topic areas of concern will be: Employee who has lost everything, temporary housing needs, continued and/or delayed payments of wages, time off needs, benefits, and layoffs, reduced hours, furloughs, and temporary closings. Employees who are physically or emotionally (e.g., post-traumatic stress disorder) injured as the result of a catastrophe may be entitled to reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). As such, the campus complaint protocol and procedures are still in effect to address employee, student, external community concerns, albeit remotely implemented via the emergency contact list and other alternative means. Training and Development can still be accomplished via TrainTraq if campus personnel will not be able to return to the campus for an extended period, assuming internet services are available. Consequently, this resource can be used to help maximize the employees time as appropriate.
- In an emergency situation our food service provider (provider) may be the only possible source of food and water to students and essential staff. The provider has capability to provide meals and water to students and essential staff for up to three (3) days based on contingency stock (this timeline would vary based on number fed). If additional product is received, the feeding function can continue for up to five (5) days before severe consequences occur.
- In the event of a power outage the provider’s plan is dependent on partners such as Sysco or comparable to provide mobile refrigeration/freezer units. If these are unavailable, temporary units would be brought in from an alternate source. In the event provider personnel are unable to report to work per the emergency work plan, personnel from unaffected components, professional volunteers and contract labor would be used to sustain the level of service required. Currently, food preparation would be limited to items that can be prepared using portable cooking appliances that can be operated by generators and extensive use of non perishable items. Gas appliances in the kitchen may be used but not extensively because of the lack of power to cooking ventilation. Transportation of cooked foods from a related, unaffected facility would also be investigated. Use of outdoor grills is also an option for preparing cooked foods.