Continuity of Operations Planning at Boise State University
In recent years, we have seen other colleges and universities experience catastrophic events, natural and manmade, large and small. Similarly, Boise State University has had first-hand experience with natural, technological, and human incidents ranging from nuisance flooding and winter weather events, to fires and pandemic influenza. Fortunately none of our incidents have been catastrophic, but we still must attempt to answer the “what if’s” that would disrupt or stop our business as normal operations.
We believe every department is critical to the University’s overall mission–the loss of even one department diminishes the whole. For this reason, every department on campus must participate in continuity of operations planning efforts. “Boise State Ready” is the tool we use here at Boise State University and is a continuity of operations planning tool that is specific to institutions of higher education. Its aim is to increase the institution’s ability to keep operating in the face of disruptive events.
On the Boise State Ready website, you’ll find planning templates, guidance for developing your department’s plan, links to informative sites, news about disasters and evolving threats, and information about University operation plans for a disaster or crisis. Our goal is to work with you to develop the best operating strategies for your department and for the University in the event of an emergency situation.
Business. The “business” of higher education is teaching, research, and public service. In some cases (medical centers & health sciences schools) the “business” also includes patient care. For higher education, these four functions are the “business” in business continuity planning.
Departmental Focus. The Boise State Ready tool produces departmental continuity plans, and can be used by any type of department – instructional, research, support, administrative, collections (libraries, museums) and clinical.
The Product. The departmental continuity plan can be printed as a document and contains:
- Prioritized list of the department’s critical functions, with details of each
- Specific section on continuity of IT
- Specific section on continuity of instruction (if applicable)
- Lists of 10 types of key resources, with details
- Repository of key documents
- High-level recovery strategies for all functions
- Action items to achieve a better state of readiness. These action items embody the central premise of continuity planning: that the most effective way to cope with disaster is to get ready ahead of time – by putting in place NOW the information, processes & resources that we will need THEN.
All-Hazards. The tool uses an all-hazards approach. This means that it aims to increase the organization’s readiness for all types & sizes of disaster events –
- Natural disasters (regional earthquake, fire in your offices, infectious disease epidemic, unexpected death of a key employee, etc.)
- Technological disasters (data loss, connectivity loss, equipment failure, etc.)
- Human-caused disasters (terrorism, theft, civil disturbance, cyber attack, etc.)
Accepted Methodology. The Boise State Ready tool uses the accepted methodology of the continuity of operations planning profession. The core of Boise State Ready’s uniqueness is that it adapts this methodology to the circumstances & culture of higher education.
Structure of the Tool
- Focused at the department level – The typical campus is highly decentralized, with operational control exercised to a large extent at the department level. Since continuity planning is operational-level planning, it must focus on departments. The product of the Boise State Ready tool is a departmental continuity plan.
- Do-it-yourself – Because campuses may contain hundreds of departments, the planning process must be self-operated. The Boise State Ready tool contains all the information & guidance needed for its use. On the Berkeley campus, for example, more than half of the current 260 departmental plans were created without any contact with the campus planning office.
- Easy to use, no training required – Users must be able to pick up the tool and use it. The Boise State Ready tool is a straightforward questionnaire with clear guidance text and intuitive navigation.
- Lean content, clear purpose – The tool is oriented to stimulate departmental preparedness (via its action items). It collects only that data that is essential to its purpose. It avoids overly-detailed recovery strategies (more on this below). Hence the tool remains lean and do-able.
- Final outcome: a campus-level continuity plan – The department-level plans identify both action items that can be accomplished by the department, and action items that belong to higher levels of the institution. These higher-level action items, taken together, comprise a powerfully-focused campus continuity plan.
The Office of Emergency Management can assist departments throughout the campus to create their continuity plan that identify both strategies for coping with events when they occur, and preparations that can be done in advance. Call 426-3638 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.