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Ohio University observes National Preparedness Month with business continuity planning resources

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security encourages individuals to be prepared for emergency situations they may face where they live, work and visit during National Preparedness Month each September – and Ohio University is aiding in preparedness efforts of academic and administrative units with significant progress in its efforts surrounding business continuity planning. 

Beginning in 2015, OHIO’s Office of Emergency programs began ramping up its efforts to help units complete business continuity plans, which are prepared in advance to help mitigate the effects of unforeseen circumstances on normal University business operations, including teaching and instruction. 

Each unit will have unique needs to think through relating to its own business continuity plan and Beverley Wyatt, business continuity coordinator with the Office of Emergency Programs, is usually the person helping to guide this effort. 

“Business continuity plans help units to identify critical functions and develop alternative plans for continuing those functions should normal resources not be available,” Wyatt said. “It’s a valuable process for units who don’t consider these emergency scenarios on a day-to-day basis.” 

Jill Harris, emergency programs manager, explained that Wyatt’s part-time position was identified two years ago as a gap in OHIO’s emergency program efforts.

“Having a dedicated staff member who is flexible and knowledgeable about University systems has been an asset to the campus’s emergency preparedness and ability to maintain normal operations during an adverse event,” Harris said. 

In the last year, Wyatt has had the support and assistance of Brenda Phillips, Ph.D., associate dean of the Chillicothe Campus, who helped initiate and lead business continuity planning efforts across all five of OHIO’s regional campuses.

“Dr. Phillips has been critical in the development of branch campus plans because she understands the unique and sometimes isolated nature of extension campus activity,” Wyatt said. In addition, Harris and Wyatt have also led tabletop exercises at each branch campus location. 

“The tabletop exercises can help to simulate what an actual crisis would feel like, including the need for quick response time and the challenges associated with receiving incomplete information,” Wyatt explained. “Tabletop exercises put a business continuity plan into action and can help to identify if there are parts of a plan that need additional development or information to be useful in a real emergency.” 

Wyatt is currently working with additional units to establish business continuity plans and help those with existing plans to update them on an annual basis. Any campus department or office may contact wyatt@ohio.edu to discuss initiating a business continuity plan. 

In addition to business continuity planning efforts, the Office of Emergency Programs launched a monthly brown bag series focusing on topics that relate to creating more resiliency in business continuity plans, including becoming organizationally resilient (January 2017); identifying and understanding upstream and downstream dependencies (February 2017); the human factor (March 2017); annual business continuity planning review assistance (May 2017); ALiCE active shooter training (July 2017); and best ways to leverage official communication channels during a crisis (August 2017). 

“The brown bag sessions are designed to complement the topics we’re discuss as part of the business continuity planning process while providing an opportunity for additional professional development related to disaster preparedness,” Wyatt said. 

Spots are still available in three upcoming brown bag sessions scheduled for November and December; contact wyatt@ohio.edu to register: 

  • ALiCE active shooter training: Wednesday, Nov. 15, from 10 a.m. to noon in Baker University Center 240/242
  • How to prepare and respond to threats of epidemic/infectious disease: Presented by Jeremy Phillips, director of public health preparedness at the Athens City/County Health Department; Tuesday, Nov. 21, from noon to 1 p.m. in Baker University Center 229
  • Athens Campus active shooter tabletop exercise: Tuesday, Dec. 19, from 8:30 a.m. to noon in Baker University Center 204/242