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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Business Continuity Planning (BCP) and how is that different from Emergency Operations?

Business Continuity Planning documents back up plans for continuing normal (or as close to normal) business operations if there is a disruption to normal operating procedures. Emergency Operations (aka Emergency Response) is defined as the immediate response to the safety and security of individuals and property during and immediately following an emergency event.

Why should our unit have a BCP?

A BCP is like homeowner’s insurance. It is wise to have it in place, but the hope is that you will never have to use it. While we don’t like to think about it, the possibility of a major system outage, a natural disaster, an act of terrorism, or a major fire is always upon us. A BCP helps to maintain core critical functions after an emergency or catastrophe, and is designed to assist with the reestablishment of normal business functions (perhaps in a reduced mode) as quickly as possible.

How do I start and what is the easiest way for me to accomplish the goal of creating a well-developed BCP?

There are many ways to begin, and the staff in the Emergency Management Office will guide you through the process. Many individuals find that actually getting into the OHIO Ready system and adding what limited information that initially comes to mind is a great way to get started. OHIO Ready is very intuitive and if you just fill in the blanks to the best of your ability and then PRINT the complete document - you will get a sense of what type of information the plan is asking for and you will also see the "holes" where information is missing. At that point, you can go back into OHIO Ready and add the missing pieces of information as well as further develop your responses.

Can I see another units "plan" as a reference?

Sample plans are available and demonstrates what a well documented plan may look like.  It can also provide ideas that may prove to be helpful during the development of your plan.

How can I get others in the department involved with the process so that I do not have to do all of this work myself?

This is a great question. The plan is best developed using a team approach and leadership support is key. Obviously everyone on the team needs to provide input as well as understand the need for a Business Continuity Plan in order to utilize the plan successfully if the need should arise.  Normally, one staff member takes the lead and then solicits input from coworkers, supervisors, and directors to ensure that all are in agreement with the documented response.

When should I involve my supervisor?

Supervisors should be involved from the very beginning of the process and be supportive of the plan creation. Keep them involved along the way by sharing responses to various portions of the plan, and seek their input, direction and approval as the plan is completed. Typically, the highest level of supervision within the office "signs off" on the plan and updates the status to either complete (when initial plan is completed) or current (after each annual review). 

What constitutes a “good” BCP?

A good BCP is one that will provide the leadership of your department (and substitute leadership if need be) with a clear sense of what critical functions need to be re-established quickly and efficiently after an incident or disaster, and also provides options and resources to help guide the process. A BCP will never be "perfect" because incidents will vary, but it should provide enough information and guidance that the person(s) responsible for restoration of services does not have to start from scratch.

Can we access the OHIO Ready system if the Ohio network is down? Can we retrieve our plan from home?

The answer to both questions is yes! OHIO Ready is hosted off site and as long as you have access to an internet connection you can access your plan.

How can I change my password?

To change your password, log into the system and look at the upper right hand side of the page where the silhouette is shown. Click “account settings” and simply change your password.

How can another user be added so that I can share the input of data with a co-worker?

There are three user levels within the Ohio Ready system - managers, editors, and viewers.  Only "managers" can add and delete users from a plan. To add a new user, first search for the person by typing their last name in the “select a user” field. If the person is already in the Ohio Ready system, their name will show up and you can “add user to this plan” and assign their user level. If this method does not work, then most likely the person has never been invited to join OHIO Ready as a user. In that instance, select the blue “plus” sign by the name field, and enter the person’s first & last name and email address. Click on the box “send an email invitation” and then click “create user”. NOTE: once the person accepts the invitation and sets up their user account, it may take 24-48 hours for the administrator to approve the addition.

Will our department be in trouble if we do not complete a BCP?

At this point, there is no University policy that requires your department to complete a BCP however, BCPs will be required as part of the Internal Audit review process and your office might be marked with a deficiency if a plan is not in place.

How should a plan be developed with multiple unit heads?

OHIO Ready allows for only one unit head to be documented. For instances where there are more than one unit head, use the department description field to identify how the department is structured and list names of other unit heads in that location.

For faculty and other academic units, when calculating the total staff member count, how does one account for adjunct faculty or should they be categorized under “other’?

This is a tough question but most units add a total “body count” to the “other” category.

Does an evacuation plan have to be uploaded or can we simply have a plan within our unit?

Because the university is so large and complex, it is best if individual units develop their own department specific evacuation and assembly point plans.Campus Emergency Guide When creating a plan for your unit, here are some general points to consider:

  1. Identify an assembly or gathering point where you can account for all members of the unit.
  2. Make sure that you have a way to contact or identify where a person who is not accounted for might be - (view their calendar, have their phone number readily available).
  3. Follow instructions of OUPD or other critical response authority (they may not want you to gather in your identified assembly point).
  4. Document and share the evacuation plan with everyone in your unit & also attach a copy of this document to your BCP.
What is the purpose of asking for a “cost center”? What if there are multiple cost centers within one department?

At this time, this field is optional, however future uses might be related to reimbursement of expenses that are directly related to an emergency situation.

How many critical functions should we have in our final plan?

Only your department can answer this question. There is no set number of critical functions required. Some units may have three, others may have ten. It really depends upon your individual unit and what duties you feel must be "functional" or accessible during/immediately following an emergency to bring your office back to a somewhat "normal" state of activity. Try to group like items into one critical function if possible (for instance, you might have a broad critical function called “accounting functions” or “records management” into which you can provide a description of a wide range of duties). Remember, the more critical functions that you list, the more there are to maintain. Sometimes it just makes sense to group similar activities together and other times they are distinctly different and you may want to detail the plans separately. This is a unit specific decision.

Criticality Level – How do you determine the criticality level of a critical function?
  • Critical 1: must be continued at normal or increased service load. Cannot pause. Necessary to life, health, security. (Examples: inpatient care, police services)
  • Critical 2: must be continued if at all possible, perhaps in reduced mode. Pausing completely will have grave consequences. (Examples: provision of care to at-risk outpatients, functioning of data networks, at-risk research)
  • Critical 3: may pause if forced to do so, but must resume in 30 days or sooner. (Examples: classroom instruction, research, payroll, student advising)
  • Deferrable: may pause; resume when conditions permit. (Examples: elective surgery, routine building maintenance, training, marketing)
What kind of documents should be uploaded?

Any document that you might want to have as part of the plan can be uploaded to the BCP. This might include emergency contact list/call tree; vendor information; paper “work around” documents (if network is unavailable); forms; etc. DO NOT upload manuals, or large documents. Either save them to OneDrive, or other cloud based storage for efficient offsite access, or “point” to them within the document fields so that a third party will know where they can be found.

What is an "upstream" dependency?

Think of water flowing down a river. Whatever happens upriver, affects those downriver. Your critical functions (projects, duties) depend on something or someone else. Upstream dependencies are processes, decisions, etc. that your office is reliant on happening before you can do a critical function. Your critical function may be waiting on deliverables from another office before it can continue. For example - the Ohio Information Network must be functional before you can access information from a shared drive. They (OIT) would then be an “upstream” dependency to any work requiring Ohio technology services. Another example is that you may be waiting on a list of students from the Registrar so you know who to contact for advising sessions. The Registrar’s Office is an upstream dependency in this instance.

What is a "downstream" dependency?

Downstream dependencies are processes, decisions, duties or other units who depend on your processes. A downstream dependency for the Admissions Office would be Housing and Residence Life because Housing is dependent on students being admitted to the institution before a housing agreement/contract can be completed. In other words, your critical function must occur before another can begin. Another example would be grant funding. An office waiting for funds might be dependent on the approval and submission of a grant by the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. Therefore the office is a "downstream" dependent of the actions of the higher level grant approval process.

Working from Home:

There are some instances when identified staff could be permitted to perform work from home or another off site location. Please review Ohio Policies: 40.053 and 40.063. Depending upon job duties, working from home may require VPN access. For more information about VPN please contact the Office of Information Technology (740) 593-1222. Also, see “Information Technology Section” of this document for information about VPN and cloud based applications.

Please give me an example of an "action item".

An action item is similar to a "to do" list. If you identify a shortfall in your plan and you need some time to work it out or you don't want an idea to get too far off the radar, you can add it to your action item list. An example might be if your office does not have an emergency contact list. You will want to complete one but may not have the time to do it right now. You can add it to your action item list and then adjust the flow (not yet started, in process, completed) as you work through the process. Your action items may also include a financial component (eg. need to build money into your budget) and your plan will then serve as a documented need that you can share with the budget unit manager.

What is considered a Central Application:

Please choose from the list provided by Ohio University Office of Information Technology, all applications that you routinely use in your daily business functions. NOTE: This list was created by OIT. If you feel that an application is missing or should be on the list, please DO NOT ADD IT, instead, send an email to and request that the application be reviewed for potential addition to the list.

What is considered a Departmental Application?

If your office uses an application that is specific to your type of work and is not supported by Ohio University OIT unit, (cloud based, pay a monthly/yearly fee for usage), then it is a departmental application. If your office uses an application that is shared by a group of offices and nobody knows who “owns” it, please contact for further instruction.

How do I answer questions about servers or other IT questions if I do not know the answers?

Answering these questions are difficult for some units. Please consult with your internal (departmental) technical support staff for answers to these questions as a starting point. If you do not have an internal technical support contact, perhaps you could contact either an individual that you department works with in OIT related to specific applications or whoever you call if you are having problems with the application. Vendors may also be helpful.

Are we allowed to store work related materials in the cloud for easy access?

The university supports OneDrive as an alternative storage site for work related materials that are not HIPAA or FERPA compliant (see note). OneDrive provides a great way to retrieve materials from any location via an internet connection.Please contact the Office of Information Technology via footprints for more information.

Should departmental passwords be stored in the cloud for ease of retrieval in the event of an emergency?

The information security office recommends no plain text passwords be stored locally. To store passwords in the cloud, it is recommended to store the passwords in an encrypted file such as a KeePass file or a password protected document. The key or password to open the file should be stored in a separate location.

What are considered to be “high priority” courses?

Each department must decide the answer to this question. Normally, classes that are broad based (needed for many majors), and those that are specifically needed to graduate would be considered high priority to continue following an emergency.

What are considered to be “Special Teaching Issues”?

Special teaching issues are those non-traditional classroom instructional methods such as: clinicals, lab practicums, student teaching, community/field based activity, etc. Special situations that may warrant a bit more planning and coordination if those site locations were lost in the event and may not be as easily continued in an alternative mode.

What is LMS?

LMS stands for learning management system. Blackboard serves as an LMS at OHIO.

Is there online instruction available for video (Panopto) training.

Yes, see here.

Should each department maintain a current semester syllabi available both on and off campus so that a new instructor could have access to it quickly?

Think of it this way, if you needed a replacement instructor quickly, could you get your hands on a syllabus for that particular class?

Is there an instruction page for new instructors to learn/access Blackboard?
Why is a printed emergency contact list requested?

Most individuals have coworker and key vendor phone numbers readily available (typically stored in their cell phone) so that contact can be made quickly if needed. However, what if another individual (upper administration/temporary replacement staff/3rdparty contractor) needs this information during an emergency and you/your staff are not available?

Why does somebody have to know how to check messages or record a greeting on a phone?

If you have a main telephone line that is normally answered during business hours by a staff person, what happens if that person is out of the office during the emergency? What is the plan for retrieving voice mail messages that are left on that line? If this same staff member normally takes care of changing the main line voice recording, what is the plan to record an “emergency” greeting that redirects callers to another office or provides them instructions on how to obtain the information they are requesting if that staff member is not available?

We normally rely on someone outside of the department to post information on our web page. Why is this information necessary?

During an emergency, it is often necessary to put temporary instructions on a web page to direct/redirect individuals to needed service locations, call centers, distribution/pick up points, etc.  Having this contact person's information handy may be helpful during a time of crisis.

What is a “group password”? We all have individual passwords.

There are some applications/systems that provide only one password per institution/department. Often this password is kept very secure and only shared by a very limited number of staff. If the individuals who hold this password are not available, how will business continuity continue? See OIT section for ways to secure this password.

What do you mean by leadership succession?

Leadership succession might be better worded as “designated back-up” for critical positions.

Do we have to know how to remote into the Ohio network in order to work from home?

It depends on what you will be working on from home and where it is stored. See Information Technology FAQ.

I do not understand the “teams” section.

In this area, please list teams/groups/committees that the department normally meets with regularly in support of business functions/  These groups could potentially assist/advise/guide the restoration of your primary business duties should the normal staff be unavailable.

Can you give advice on how to complete the skills section?

If a department needed to find temporary assistance in order to restart their office responsibilities, what skills would be needed? Keep in mind that sometimes there are staff within the institution that can be temporarily reassigned and sometimes it might be necessary to hire from an outside agency. Think of this page as a “tear out” sheet that you could quickly remove from your plan and hand it to whoever is going to seek out temporary staffing.

Please provide advice on how to complete the “Staffing Requirements” section.

The goal of this particular set of questions is to inform institutional/departmental leadership of offices/units that MAY have staff who could be temporarily reassigned to another unit during a crisis.

Staff from Other Units:

Outside of your immediate office, who do you work with within the institution on a regular basis? Most offices regularly interact with particular people or offices for collaborative efforts, to troubleshoot problems, or to plan coordinated business activities. List these individuals and make a comment as to why this person would be resourced/or what expertise they provide in relationship to your business practice.  Be sure to include their email address as well as their office and cell phone number.


Who are the EXTERNAL partners who have a vested interest in your department/office’s success or who you might need to resource during an emergency? Another way of thinking about it is who you might need to call on a Saturday afternoon, should an emergency occur in your area. This list would include vendors, donors, service providers, granting agency contact, state agencies, contacts from other institutions, local health care agencies, etc.

Documents: What type of documents do you recommend being attached to the plan?

The best way to decide the answer to this question is what vital records or databases (either paper or electronic format) are essential to continuing operations during and after an emergency? Would you need prompt access to these documents order to take immediate action or to make contingency plans. If so, attach a PDF of the document to the plan because office space may not be accessible or campus network may not be available for a period of time.  Examples include: an emergency contact list, a list of vendors that you would need to call to deliver emergency supplies or stakeholders who might need notified. Do not attach large, lengthy documents. Instead, simply identify what the document is and where this information is stored so that it can be accessed later. Consider OneDrive or another cloud based storage as an alternative/back up location for large documents (see IT section).

Utilities: What if the department does not know the answer to this question?

This particular question is directed to those units (research, facilities management, etc.) who have specific utility needs that fall outside the standard electric, water, heating and cooling that we normally enjoy.

When is/will our BCP be ready for "sign off" and what does that mean?

Once the plan is as thorough and complete as you can make it at the time, AND AFTER unit leadership/ supervisor has reviewed it and provided comment and/or edits, it is ready for sign off. The sign off is a simple process that actually just updates the plan status.  It will however, require that the person with that authority have a user account.

Can changes be made to the plan once it is signed off?

Yes. The BCP is a living document and should be updated and expanded as opportunity arises. For instance, if there is a crisis or emergency at another institution and you think to yourself "what would we do if that happened here"? It might be a good time to make an edit your BCP and document what your plan of recovery would be in a similar situation. There is also a yearly review period where you will be asked to look at your BCP and make appropriate edits.

Once our BCP is completed and signed off, what do I do?

Once the plan is completed, it should be SHARED with key individuals of your department. We recommend printing off a copy for the office, and also one for each key staff member. Ask them to take their copy home in the event that it is needed during non-business hours. You may want to email them a PDF of the document as well. The idea is that everyone has an easily accessible copy so that can be utilized quickly if needed.

When should our plan be updated?

Once per year all plans should be reviewed and updated. There may be new staff who need to be added, or processes that have changed. Also, the plan should be updated anytime that there is an incident that prompts discussion or thoughts on how a process should be conducted if an emergency should occur.

What is meant by "Testing a Business Continuity Plan"?

Testing, training and exercises are designed to familiarize staff members with their roles and responsibilities during a distruptive event and also ensure that systems and equipment are maintained in a constant state of readiness. Managers can be creative when it comes to BCP readiness exercises and create practice scenario's such as power outages, server failure, tornado damage, etc. After identifying a scenario, discuss it during a department meeting and talk through how each critical function would be affected and allow employees to react to the situation.Testing the BCP will validate the documented plans, policies, procedures and systems; identify deficiencies in the BCP and allow for subsequent correction. The Office of Emergency Management is available to facilitate table top exercises or can provide you with examples. Often it is helpful to partner with other offices when scheduling a drill. Evaluate your unit's performance and then make edits/corrections or changes to the BCP as necessary.