Mission Continuity Plans

What is a Mission Continuity Plan?

A Mission Continuity Plan documents how the division or department will perform essential operations during an emergency situation or long-term disruption, which might last from 2 days to several weeks. The plan will identify mission-critical functions, departmental communication methods, and alternate personnel, systems and locations. Each University department needs a Mission Continuity Plan to ensure the University can respond effectively to a variety of situations. In 2023, the University rebranded the plans previously known as Continuity of Operations Plans (COOPs) to become Mission Continuity Plans, which better reflects their purpose.  

The mission continuity planning process focuses on two key questions:

  1. What functions performed by the department are essential or central to the University community? Such operations might include providing food and shelter, utilities, security services, communication and computing devices, payroll, etc.
  2. What resources are required to continue to continue those essential operations during an emergency or disruption?

The University’s policy on Essential Services During Emergencies or Other Conditions is a valuable reference for planning what human resources are necessary to carry out the Mission Continuity Plan.

How is a Mission Continuity Plan Different from an Emergency Action Plan?

Emergency Action Plans are building-specific, short-term plans that details how occupants should evacuate or shelter-in-place, what type of fire alarm systems are present, and where to assemble if the building is evacuated. Mission Continuity Plans detail how an entire department or division would provide essential services and continue to function in an extended emergency event or disruption.

What are the Key Planning Principles When Writing a Mission Continuity Plan?

There are certain key planning principles to keep in mind when writing or updating your department's Mission Continuity Plan.

  • The focus of a Mission Continuity Plan should be on essential functions, not particular people. Essential functions and those who can fulfill those functions will change, depending on the situation.
  • The functions of a department do not change in a Mission Continuity Plan; departments not normally responsible for food, shelter, security, etc. do not need to plan to assume those responsibilities.
  • The planning process is the most important aspect of the mission continuity planning exercise, even more so than the final product.
  • A plan will not cover all contingencies. Good planning, however, will allow for good decision making in the midst of a crisis.

What are Some Things to Avoid When Writing a Mission Continuity Plan?

Some of the errors people have made when attempting to write a Mission Continuity Plan include:

  • Planning for specific scenarios - For example, instead of planning for what to do in a flood, fire, etc., plan for what to do if your normal building was inacessible for any reason.
  • Getting caught up in extremes - It is unlikely that a crisis would result in a catastrophic loss of support. Try to divide the planning process into disparate silos, such as (1) loss of building/workspace, (2) loss of staff and (3) loss of utilities/networking functions.
  • Planning to the last emergency - While it's important to pay attention to "lessons learned", each incident is different and planning should take a broader scope.
  • Assuming the existing management hierarchy - It's important to remember that the normal decision-makers for a department may not be available in an emergency. It can be important to designate alternate decision-makers and ensure they are empowered to take action if necessary.

Documenting Your Division’s Mission Continuity Plans

The University has initiated a process to update the Mission Continuity Plans for each division, starting with those that have responsibilities related to the safety of life and property and the University mission. EHS representatives are available to introduce the Mission Continuity planning process and template, and can help you set a timeline for completion. 

A Central, Secure Repository for all Mission Continuity Plans

EHS now manages a central and secure repository for all University Mission Continuity Plans. If your department already has a Mission Continuity Plan, please call Derek Ziegler to make arrangements to add it to the repository ([email protected] or 258-8695).