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Higher Ed Continuity FAQ

Table Of Contents:

Do you have continuity planning questions? Find answers and supporting resources in the higher ed continuity planning FAQs below. If you don’t find the answers you’re looking for, please email us your questions at and we will try to find answers.

What is Continuity Planning?

Continuity planning is not about stopping bad things from happening. Rather, it is the knowledge that your organization will face unexpected risks, and taking the correct steps to prepare for those risks. Continuity planning is the process of preparing to maintain or restore mission-critical functions when an adverse event occurs. Adverse events include natural disasters, man-made emergencies, global pandemics, etc. Business continuity planning also includes identifying vulnerabilities, priorities, dependencies, and measures for developing plans to facilitate operational continuity and recovery before, during, and after such an event. Learn more in A Guide to Continuity Planning Basics.

What is Higher Ed Continuity Planning?

Higher Ed Continuity Planning is similar in principle to business continuity planning, in Higher Ed Continuity Planning each department has its own continuity plan similar to individual businesses with elements of these department-level plans rolling up into a comprehensive institutional continuity of operations plan. The goal is to preserve academic and business functions no matter what adverse event occurs. Learn more about higher ed continuity planning in our ebook, How To: Business Continuity Planning Basics for Higher Ed.

How Do I Run a Business Continuity Plan Test?

Tests are run by walking through a disaster scenario with the recovery team and answering specific questions as to what the team would do if people were missing, the building burned down, the media was asking students for comments, etc. A set of exercise objectives—familiarizing participants of their role during and after an event, exercising communication practices, test viability of identified workarounds— should be identified and met. After the test, the plans should be updated to accommodate for findings after every exercise, and action items that are viable, actionable, and have measurable times to complete should be created for any discovered gaps. Learn more about testing and training in chapter five of A Thorough Guide to Continuity Planning in Higher Education.

Will Running Tabletop Exercises Test Plans?

Tabletop exercises (TTX) help familiarize participants with the continuity plan and their role during an event. Participants walk through every detail of their continuity plan, responding to how they would react to a specific situation, such as an unavailable work location or the absence of an essential staff member. This exercise helps to identify gaps in the plan and ensure it is realistic and attainable when it needs to be activated. Learn more about tabletop exercises and other plan exercise options in chapter five of A Thorough Guide to Continuity Planning in Higher Education.

What is a Critical Function?

Critical functions are the regular functions that contribute to the institution’s main service offerings. These functions must continue at a sufficient level at your institution without interruption or be restarted within given time frames after a disruption occurs to prevent damage to life, property, or assets. It’s important to remember, “all functions are necessary on your campus; however, only some of them are critical.” Learn more about critical functions and applications in chapter four of How To: Business Continuity Planning Basics for Higher Ed.

Why is Business Continuity Important for Higher Education?

Business continuity planning is the essential, preparatory discipline that protects an organization against unexpected adverse events. Not only must a college or university continue the critical business functions like payroll and invoicing, but it must also continue teaching and researching. With robust continuity plans in place, an institution can avoid significant setbacks. Learn more details in our blog Why business continuity actually matters (and how we can help).

How Do I Start an Academic Continuity Plan?

To start your academic continuity plan, you should consider the critical functions involved in delivering the academic functions of your department. Once you’ve identified the academic critical functions, planning focuses on recovering from the loss of an essential employee, normal work location, critical application, or unique resource. Document all necessary equipment, employees, and steps to resume activity for academic critical functions as quickly as possible. To learn more, read Continuity Program Methodology for Higher Ed.

What Is Needed in A Business Continuity Plan?

Business continuity plans contain a large amount of useful information. Most common elements in a continuity plan include contact information, plan responsibilities, leadership succession, alternate work locations, and data backup information. A useful tool that can help make building continuity plans simpler is a business continuity plan checklist. This type of checklist will help you cover all critical areas of continuity planning to ensure you have covered your bases. Check out our full Business Continuity checklist for more details surrounding elements in a continuity plan.

How Do I Write a Business Continuity Plan?

The steps to writing a business continuity plan can be summarized in four steps. 


Each step is a critical piece to creating a complete continuity plan. Learn more about the details of each step in chapter three in the ebook, How To: Business Continuity Planning Basics for Higher Ed.

How Are Recovery Strategies Developed?

Creating a recovery strategy as part of your continuity plan can be difficult, because it’s not always easy to generalize your response. With each prospective threat, it can feel like you have to create a unique response, but it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Using the all hazards approach to planning helps simplify this process. The all hazards approach to planning focuses more on how you manage consequences rather than the cause. For instance, it doesn’t matter whether you lost your office to a flood, fire, or tornado. All that really matters is you don’t have an office and what you’ll do about it. For more information on developing recovery strategies, check out chapter five of the ebook, How To: Business Continuity Basics in Higher Ed.

What Are Upstream and Downstream Dependencies?

An upstream dependency is one where something must happen before your role at the institution can start something else. A downstream dependency is something your role at the institution must deliver before something else can start, i.e. someone else is waiting for you to complete tasks before they can begin work.

For example, in an overly simplified view of campus functions, registration is dependent on enrollment. Without students enrolled at the school, there is no way for them to register for a course. In this situation, enrollment is the upstream function, while registration is the downstream function. This is key in business continuity planning because it identifies what roles and functions are critical and thus need to be planned for, potentially across departments, to keep the mission of the institution moving forward. Check out chapter six of the ebook, How To: Business Continuity Basics in Higher Ed, to discuss upstream and downstream dependencies further.

How Do You Maintain a Continuity Plan?

You have to consistently and thoroughly test a plan to know if it's complete and will fulfill its intended purpose during an adverse event. Tabletop exercises and walk throughs are crucial to making sure there are no holes in your plan and keeping it up to date with the changes within your institution. For more information on testing and training, check out chapter five of the ebook, A Thorough Guide to Continuity Planning in Higher Education, and chapter seven of the ebook, How To: Business Continuity Planning Basics for Higher Ed.

How Will Your Continuity Plan Help?

Having a business continuity plan in place before an adverse event happens gives you the ability to react quickly, accurately, and efficiently. That reaction time can play a major role in the success or failure of your organization. A continuity plan gives you the power to determine how your company is going to respond rather than being reactive and being rushed to make choices. You're tasked with more than just continuity planning, you're planning to keep people safe, and to minimize disruption of the most critical elements of your mission. To learn how continuity plans helped East Carolina University, check out this case study.

What is an ECOOP or Enterprise-Level Continuity Plan?

An Enterprise Continuity of Operations Plan or ECOOP is a document that describes how an organization's critical functions will be sustained for up to 30 days as a result of a disaster event before returning to normal operations. This is created by compiling all of the departmental plans created through the planning process. To learn more about creating an ECOOP, check out the webinar, What is an Enterprise Continuity of Operations Plan, and Why Does My Institution Need One?, or chapter eight of the ebook, A Thorough Guide to Continuity Planning in Higher Education.

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