Frequently Asked Questions

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Business Continuity Planning FAQ

Case Western Reserve University’s mission is to improve and enrich people’s lives through research that capitalizes on the power of collaboration, and education that dramatically engages our students.  Each department on our campus performs different functions essential to supporting the University’s mission. 

A business continuity plan is a document that collects information on resources, assets and procedures; the plan will be developed by the department, tested and updated as needed, to be ready in the event of an interruption in business operations.  Business unit / department leaders are responsible for ensuring the development and maintenance of a departmental Business Continuity Plan.  Additionally, it will be the responsibility of all persons within the department, including faculty, staff and administrators, to be familiar with their plan.   

Departmental Business Continuity plans are an integral component of CWRU’s University-wide general continuity plan, which will provide a framework for University leadership in prioritizing recovery and continuity activities.

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In the event of any disruption on campus or in Cleveland, CWRU’s administrative, academic and research operations will be momentarily paused until the emergency situation has been addressed.  The Emergency Response Framework has been designed to focus on the mitigation of immediate safety hazards.

Any prolonged disruption could have a dual impact on the University.  Primarily, student instruction might be impeded and research initiatives may stall while order and safety is assured on the campus.  The secondary impact, however, is a more subtle, long-term concern; the University might experience student attrition and the loss of faculty to other institutions.  CWRU’s response to and recovery from a disruptive event could also color its reputation and public image.  Therefore, an organized, efficient course of action to restore operations will be of utmost importance.

While restoration efforts to bring CWRU to a normal state may occur in stages, based upon the type of incident, the University will prioritize the resumption of core academics and major research projects.

Emergency management at CWRU is focused on planning for and coordinating the response to mitigate and recover from a natural or man-made disaster situation.  The safety and welfare of the campus community -- students, faculty, staff and visitors – are paramount, and emergency responders are responsible for addressing immediate life safety concerns.

Meanwhile, business continuity is CWRU’s capability of carrying on essential university academic, research and administrative operations.  In essence, business continuity bridges emergency response and normal operations.

Disaster Recovery focuses on the continuation of information technology services and systems.  This includes critical applications and telecommunications.  CWRU’s Information Technology Services (ITS) has developed a stand-alone Disaster Recovery Plan that is not included in CWRU’s business continuity program.  The two plans are designed to work in alignment, rather than one supersede another.  

A Business Continuity Plan for your academic college, department or business unit will account for details related to the following:

  • Basic departmental information:
    • Location
    • Contact numbers
    • Contact list (or location of list), phone tree
  • Departmental Chain of Command
  • Mission Critical Functions
    • Recovery time frames
    • Primary responsible staff
  • Resource Inventory
    • Employees
    • Workstation requirements – computers, phones, printers, etc.
    • Special equipment
    • Special forms required
    • Data recovery information
  • Critical Vendor Contact Information

Business functions are defined as work or processes performed to achieve specific requirements of the University.  Examples would be purchasing supplies, processing invoices, managing cash, interviewing prospective employees, conducting research, providing training, etc. 

Critical or essential business functions are defined as a business functions that is vital to the University – without it, the University will either dysfunction or lose the capability to effectively achieve its critical objectives.

The interruption of critical business functions may have a serious impact on your college, department, business unit or the University at large.  Some of your critical business functions may be temporarily halted as your department recovers from the disruptive event; if this is the case, identify the time frame in which the function must be back on schedule.

The extended suspension of a critical business function (or shared services) could have a ripple effect on affiliate departments, so consult your business partners when drafting your plan.  Consider the impact that deferring any of your critical business functions might have on others.

Critical business functions:

  • Support the primary mission statement
  • Support other agencies’ mission critical function
  • Must be recovered quickly
  • Have a high dollar impact on the University
  • Have a high business impact
  • Have widespread public ramifications or implications
  • Have legal or compliance requirements / liabilities

Business continuity planning is a campus-wide initiative and will engage all CWRU administrative, academic and research-oriented departments and business units.  This encompasses all colleges and schools, departments, and other units that conduct teaching, research or public service.  Any other units that provide essential support or infrastructure to these units should also develop business continuity plans.  Meanwhile, the University administrative leadership will develop an over-arching strategy to provide general guidance as to how they will deploy the Business Continuity program at time of incident. 

A BIA is a tool to help your department understand the effect of an interruption on your regular operations and critical business functions. This is a departmental exercise where employees outline processes and prioritize them based on urgency to fulfilling the department’s mission. Click here for further information on starting a Business Impact Analysis in your area.

Yes, preferably a staff or faculty member who has access to senior level management. This will be a part-time responsibility for the coordinator, but their role will be part facilitator, part project manager. The BC coordinator in your department or division will administer the plan inputs and any updates, with support from the CWRU Business Continuity Manager. 

In essence, all levels of the department, school or business unit will be involved in the planning process. The dialogue around business continuity should circulate among upper and middle managers, associate and assistant deans, key functional managers, building coordinators and other support staff. Planning groups should be relatively small in size and interdisciplinary in order to cover process dependencies.

The time frame to complete a plan will depend on the individual department and the essential business processes they perform. However, the process in total need not take more than one quarter of the year. Longer time frames do not necessarily produce better plans.  Since departments and business units will be provided with plan templates, completing the Business Impact Analysis will likely be the most time consuming portion of the planning process, while writing the plan itself will be the shortest.

The CWRU Business Continuity Program adopts an all-hazards approach; most disruptive events (weather-related catastrophes, human disasters, pandemic, etc.) will impact the University’s ability to function in similar ways.  Essentially, they will temporarily impede normal operations and access to resources regularly utilized, including:

  • Facilities and space (classrooms, offices, labs)
  • Infrastructure (power, sewer, water, network connectivity and VOIP)
  • People (staff and faculty)
  • Equipment (computers, special machinery/devices)
  • Funds (income stream)

Planning strategy should focus on:

  • Identifying critical resources
  • Safeguarding these resources against loss – backing up data, systems, safe storage of research materials and proprietary data
  • Actions that could help mitigate the impact of losses
  • Replacing resources quickly (backup supplies, contracts with same or alternate vendors)
  • Performing essential business functions without traditional resources (working from home, distance learning technology, cross-trained employees, sharing facilities with unaffected areas)
  • Providing information to the impacted community with information and updates, post-disaster

Here are some reasonable assumptions:

  • Access to buildings: If campus officials have any reason to suspect that a building is hazardous to enter, the building will not be open or accessible.  You may be unable to access your office, lab, classroom or residential building for an extended period of time until all hazards have been removed.
  • Locating temporary space: Any advanced arrangements that you can make within your own divisions to share office or lab space would be to your benefit.  In the event that your space has been damaged or is inaccessible, CWRU leadership will make every effort to secure temporary, alternate locations for your work to continue.  If the circumstances result in a campus-wide closure, reassignment and temporary workspace planning will be evaluated accordingly. 
  • Computing infrastructure: The University Technology [U]Tech Disaster Recovery Plan focuses on the restoration of critical centrally-supported IT applications.  Resumption of network connectivity will be of highest priority after any disruption. Within your own units, we strongly encourage that you take steps to back up your data and develop plans on recovering your individual servers and applications.
  • Communications protocol: Communications with the campus community -- students, faculty, staff and the public – will be managed by University Marketing and Communications to ensure consistency and clarity of messaging. As functionality is restored to your specific area, internal communications will be handled by your departmental leadership.  Develop a communications strategy for your department or division, including updated contact lists and phone trees. 
  • Employee welfare: Personnel-related issues may arise during a disaster or disruptive event regarding payroll, temporary leave, benefits, temporary reassignments, work-from-home, layoffs, family issues, etc.  As Human Resources (HR) cannot develop universal policies to cover any and all extenuating circumstances, HR will be available to provide guidance to assist departments in these complex areas. Should your department have any specific concerns for HR, seek counsel in advance of any disaster.

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