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Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I gain access to the FIUready tool?

Please contact the Department of Emergency Management (DEM) regarding access to the tool.

2. How do I report a problem with the FIUready Continuity Planning tool?

Please send an email to ryang@fiu.edu with details regarding the problem and how you can be contacted for further information.

3. Which units should create continuity plans?

DEM's policy is that all Florida International University departments, centers and programs are responsible for creating and maintaining a continuity plan consistent with the guidelines set forth by the University. University departments or designated affiliates that have not yet developed their own plans shall be required to follow the central direction set by the University.

4. Should we appoint a lead continuity planner?

Yes. It is a temporary, part-time assignment for the duration of the planning project, but the lead planner often continues informally as the department's expert and contact person for continuity issues and exercises. An effective planner is usually a staff member who has access to the unit’s senior management. The role is part project manager, part group facilitator.

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

This is a crucial decision. Schools, divisions, very large departments and large support units may find it easier to develop plans for their subunits rather than for the whole. Smaller research, instructional or administrative departments would typically use the online planning tool to create a single continuity plan. Please contact the DEM for guidance in making this decision.

6. Who should be in the planning group?

The planning group is typically a staff group, with membership drawn from upper and middle managers and supervisors: assistant deans, assistant directors, managers, or department coordinators, etc. These are people who have access to management and who understand how the unit 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 group. If your unit is an instructional department or research unit, faculty input is an important part of the planning process. If faculty is 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.

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

Think of this as a one to three-month project - 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 surprisingly small because the FIUready Continuity Planning tool 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.

8. How should the planning group operate? 

The group will typically meet and discuss, with little-or-no homework. The coordinator may choose to display the FIUready Continuity Planning 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 tool) or do a bit of research. Even the coordinator’s role should not require a heavy time commitment. FIUready’s approach to continuity planning asks for your thoughtful consideration of issues, not for detailed research or legwork.

9. How detailed and complete does our plan need to be?

The FIUready Continuity 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.

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

Here are some reasonable assumptions:

  • Temporary workspaces

The University’s Office of Academic Space Management will be responsible for identifying several alternative working spaces on and off campus to be used in the event that one or more buildings are unavailable due to a disaster. Your department may be assigned to one of these workspaces based on the number of critical staff which you need working on campus as opposed to working from home and other considerations. Phone and network access will be provided with the temporary workspace.

  • Communication Protocol

In the event of a campus-wide disaster, general communications with students, faculty, staff and the public will be handled by External Relations so that messages are consistent. The University’s Department of Emergency Management may handle internal communication with affected departments. As your department resumes functioning, communications of an operational nature will be your responsibility.

  • Contacting your staff

This will be a unit level responsibility. Each school or department should keep its own emergency contact list. A template is available for creating this list. 

  • 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 Human Resources will be available with guidance and mechanism to assist departments in these complex areas.

  • Research

The Division of Research wants the FIU research community to be prepared in the event of any disruptive emergency.

The Division of Research will also be in close communication with funding agencies regarding grant and contract funded projects which are affected by a disaster. Funding agencies normally show great flexibility and assistance to institutions recovering from disaster, recognizing that research programs may be affected by the event and deadlines for reports and deliverables may need to be extended. Funding agencies have also been willing to extend grant and contract application deadlines under special circumstances such as disaster recovery.

11. 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 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 or research items)
  • Actions that will lessen the impact of losses e.g. prearrangements 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

12. How often should we update these plans?

Plans should be updated whenever there is a major change in your unit, e.g. a new application or position is used to support a critical function. In the absence of any major changes, you should review and update your plan annually by December 1st.

13. What should I do once my plan is complete?

Once your plan is complete, senior management from your unit should keep a printed copy at their homes and at least one printed copy should be kept in a safe place at the office. It is also a good idea to keep an electronic PDF version of your plan saved on your unit’s server or network drive. It is important to mark your plan complete or annually reviewed so that the DEM can update the University’s repository of plans.

14. 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 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. The University’s Department of Emergency Management will evaluate the action items on a yearly basis and make recommendations to the senior leadership on how to increase the University’s resistance to disasters.

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