Frequently Asked Questions

Should we appoint a Continuity Planning Lead for our department?

Yes. It is a periodic, part-time assignment to help develop and then annually review the plan. An effective planning lead is usually a staff member who has access to the unit’s senior management. The role is part project manager, part group facilitator.

At what level of the organization should we create a plan?

This is a crucial decision. An academic or administrative department would typically use the online planning tool to create a single continuity plan. Centers and institutes, or other “clusters” (departments who share administrative staff) would do the same. Schools, divisions, very large departments and large support units may find it easier to develop plans for their subunits rather than for the whole. This question will be addressed in your consultation with the university’s dedicated continuity planner before your department begins the planning process.

Who should be on the planning team?

The planning team is typically a staff group, with membership drawn from upper and middle managers and supervisors. These are people who have access to management and who understand how the organization operates and what its priorities are. Keep the group size manageable.

In very small units, the continuity plan is often done by the head staff member, without a planning team.

If your unit is an academic department or research unit, faculty input is an important part of the planning process. If faculty are not available to be direct participants in the process, try to solicit their input through other means such as interviews or informal conversations on key issues.

How long does it take to create a continuity plan?

Think of it as a one to two-month project – longer time frames do not produce better plans. Most plans are completed within 6 weeks. Most of this time will be “white space” waiting for meetings to happen and people to come to agreements on priorities and action items. The number of actual staff hours required is surprising small, because Tufts Continuity Planner uses a “fill in the blanks” process. Virtually no time is spent learning how to do a continuity plan — simply fill in the blanks and your plan is done.

How should the planning group operate?

The group will typically meet and discuss, with little-or-no “homework.” The point of contact may choose to display the Tufts Continuity Planner tool at the meetings using a projector. Alternatively, the point of contact can provide the group with the printed plan (which includes all entries-to-date) for discussion. On occasion, the point of contact or someone else may interview a key manager (interview forms are available within the planning tool) or do a bit of research. Even the point of contact’s role should not require a heavy time commitment. Tuft’s approach to continuity planning asks for your thoughtful consideration of issues, not for detailed research or leg-work.

How detailed and complete does our plan need to be?

Your continuity plan can never be “complete” because you can’t know what disaster you’re planning for. The planning tool will prompt you for the appropriate level of detail, and most of those details will be things that your group easily knows or can figure out. Be brief: most questions are best answered with one-to-several sentences or bullets.

What assumptions can we make about what the campus will do for us after a disaster?

To understand how the campus will respond following a disaster, please read Things to Know as You Plan. This page can be found using the HandyLinks drop-down box on the right side of the planning tool. If you feel that any information is missing or incomplete, contact the university’s dedicated continuity planner using the Contact Us page.

The instruction says to identify our critical functions, not processes. What’s the difference?

Processes are the steps needed to accomplish a function. For example, the function “provide meals for residents of university housing” is accomplished through the processes of “food buying, food storage, cooking, serving, and cleanup.” We focus on major functions because processes are too specific and detailed for our level of planning.

How can we craft a plan to handle unknown circumstances?

The methodology that we employ for continuity planning avoids discussion of particular causal events that could interrupt our mission. All such causal events (hurricane, fire, pandemic, loss of IT services, etc.) will affect our functioning in similar ways; they will temporarily prevent us from using some of the resources to which we have become accustomed.

These resources include:

  • space (our classrooms, labs and offices)
  • people (our faculty and staff)
  • equipment (computers, networks, other equipment)
  • information (libraries, data)
  • funds (our income stream)

Our planning focuses on:

  • Identifying our critical functions.
  • Identifying the resources that enable these functions.
  • Safeguarding critical resources against loss (e.g., backup of systems and data, safe storage of research items).
  • Actions that will lessen the impact of losses (e.g. pre-arrangements for mutual aid).
  • Replacing resources quickly (e.g., contracts with vendors).
  • Performing critical functions without some of those resources (e.g., teaching via distance learning technology).
  • Providing our people with the information they will need, post-disaster, to get the campus back in action.

Should we include functions that we do only in times of crisis?

Some units have functions that they do not normally perform, but may be called upon to do so in times of crisis. For example:

  • A campus housing department may have to operate isolation/quarantine facilities during a pandemic.
  • A campus police department may have to enforce closure of the entire campus following a severe earthquake or flood.
  • The department that operates campus gym facilities may have to convert gyms into classrooms.

These “extraordinary” functions (done only during crisis) typically require specific and detailed plans. MOST UNITS WILL NOT HAVE SUCH FUNCTIONS, but if your unit does, you can attach any separate plan on the Document Summary screen. If no separate plan exists, you might create an Action Item to remind your unit to develop a separate plan.

In any case, DO NOT include such “extraordinary functions” on your list of critical functions in Step 2.

How often should we update these plans?

You should review and update your plan annually. Plans should also be reviewed and updated whenever there is a major change in your area, e.g. a new application or position is used to support a critical function, as well as after any emergency or disaster disrupts your unit’s operations.

What should I do once my plan is “complete”?

Once your plan is marked “complete” within the online planning tool, you should:

  1. Download, review, and revise the completed continuity plan. You can access a printable PDF of your plan by selecting “Printing Menu” in the HandyLinks dropdown box.
  2. Request a plan review by the university’s dedicated continuity planning specialist (optional).
  3. Provide the head of your unit with a copy of the plan for their review and approval. Once the plan is approved, the head of your unit (or a designee) can mark the plan as “Complete” within the plan by selecting “Instructions for Plan Sign-Off” in the HandyLinks dropdown box.
  4. Distribute a hardcopy of your plan document to your department leaders/managers to keep both at home and at work.
  5. Communicate the essentials of your plan to all of your faculty and staff.
  6. Annually review & update your plan.
  7. Finally, and most importantly, carry out your action items as you are able. They are the key to your unit’s readiness.

What will my department gain from developing a continuity plan?

Your department will gain two important things from going through this process. The critical functions of the department and the resources and information required to support those functions will be documented. Your department will have a list of ‘action items’ to work on over the next year until you update your plan again. These action items will be a list of things that can be done to improve your ability to continue operating in the event of a disaster. Those that require funding can be used to make decisions about year-end spending and budget development for the next fiscal year.

What help is available to me in developing my unit’s continuity plan?

Contact us to find out what additional resources, beyond those found within the tool itself, are available to help you develop your unit’s continuity plan.

How do I report a problem with the Tufts Ready continuity planning tool?

You can report problems with Tufts Continuity Planner by contacting us.