Overview


These sample Frequently Asked Questions were originally published by UC Berkeley as examples of the types of questions you can add to your FAQ help screen in Ready. Feel free to reuse and edit them to suit your needs.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS


1. Who should do continuity planning?

All colleges, schools, departments, research units, and other units that conduct teaching, research, or public service should have a continuity plan. Other units that provide essential support or infrastructure to these units should also do continuity planning. These two definitions encompass virtually every unit of the campus.


2. Should we appoint a departmental continuity coordinator?

Yes: typically a staff member who has access to your senior management. The role is part project manager, part group facilitator. It is a temporary, part-time assignment for the duration of the planning project, but the coordinator often continues informally as the departmental expert and contact person for continuity issues.


3. How long does it take to create a continuity plan?

Think of this as a two- to four-month project. Our experience is that longer time frames do not produce better plans. Most of the 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 UC Ready 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.


4. Who should be in the planning group?

The planning group is typically a staff group, with membership drawn from upper and middle managers & supervisors: assistant deans, assistant directors, HR managers, IT managers, key functional managers, building coordinators. These are people who have access to the boss and who understand how the organization operates. Keep the group size manageable.

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

If your unit is an academic department or research unit, faculty input is important. While it is often difficult to engage faculty as direct participants in the planning group, try to solicit faculty opinion in other ways: interview key faculty members or simply hold less formal conversations on key issues.


5. How does the planning group operate?

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


6. How detailed & 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 UC Ready 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.


7. Should we do a plan for an entire college or school, or plan for each unit within it?

This is a crucial decision. The Office of Continuity Planning will help you make it, so give a call to 510.590.8155 or email Louise Lang at llang@berkeley.edu.

An academic department would typically use the online planning tool to create a single continuity plan. Centers and institutes would do the same. Departments served by administrative clusters would create a single plan for the cluster. Schools, colleges, very large departments and large support units may find it easier to develop plans for their subunits rather than for the whole. Contact Louise for guidance.


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

Here are some reasonable assumptions:

Access to buildings. If campus officials have reason to suspect that a building is hazardous to enter, they will immediately close the building and call in trained inspectors. In the worst case (a major earthquake with many buildings damaged), the inspection process alone could take weeks, with hazmat cleanup and repairs taking much longer. You may be unable to enter your building for an extended period of time.

Locating temporary space. This will be a huge challenge for the campus, so any arrangements you have made ahead of time will serve you well. For example, make an agreement with another department in a separate building or with colleagues in another institution. Anything you can do within your own unit will be to your benefit, such as sharing labs and offices that remain accessible.

 

Computing infrastructure. Restoration of our many centrally supported IT applications will be of highest priority after any disruption. This includes email, internet, BFS, HRMS, payroll, and many other applications, as well as the physical campus data network. Much money and effort continues to be spent on hardening our IT systems to minimize damage and aid quick recovery. Definite predictions, of course, are not possible. Within your unit, you should be taking steps to backup data and make plans for recovering your own servers and applications.

 

Communication protocol. General communications with students, faculty, staff and the public will be handled by the Office of Public Affairs, and will be tightly managed so that messages are consistent. As your unit resumes functioning, communications of an operational nature will be your responsibility.

 

Contacting your staff. This will be a departmental responsibility. Each school or department should keep its own emergency contact lists. 

 

Care of staff. Many staff issues arise during disaster recovery: pay, temporary leave, temporary alterations of assignment, safety, benefits, layoffs, work-at-home, stress, and family issues. You should assume that central Human Resources will be available with guidance and mechanisms to assist departments in these complex areas. Conversely, departments should seek guidance from central HR when uncertain how to act in these matters­-both before a disaster and after it. 

 

Temporary staffing. Mechanisms will be available (operated by central HR) for hiring temporary staff and for redeploying existing staff. Available staff who are less critical to your operation may be redeployed elsewhere.

 

Course scheduling and classroom assignment. In emergency conditions, courses will be mounted according to a priority established by department chairs in collaboration with the Office of the Registrar. Departmentally controlled classrooms may revert to the Chancellor’s control.


9. What help and money can we expect from state and federal governments?

Outside assistance for disaster recovery can be expected from both state and federal governments, but it is impossible to say before any disaster exactly what form it will take. It is important to know that the federal government never ADVANCES funds to institutions like ours for disaster recovery. Reimbursement is the path, and it is always a long one.

UC Berkeley will be eligible for reimbursement for many repair and reconstruction costs, but it will take years of negotiating with the state and federal governments. Many real losses may not be reimbursed. So the more capable we are, individually and collectively, of taking care of ourselves, the better off we will be.


10. 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.


11. How can we craft a plan to handle unknown circumstances?

The methodology that we employ for continuity planning mostly avoids discussion of particular causal events that could interrupt our mission. All such causal events (earthquake, fire, pandemic, human sabotage, 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 staff)
--equipment (computers, networks, other eqpt.)
--information (libraries, data)
--funds (our income stream).

Our planning focuses on:
--identifying the resources that are critical
--safeguarding critical resources against loss (e.g., backup of systems & data, bracing of equipment, safe storage of research items)
--actions that will lessen the impact of losses (e.g., pre-arrangements with sister campuses 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.

At best, a continuity plan is not a step-by-step cookbook, but rather a jumping-off point for ingenuity.