Continuity Planning




The Office of Emergency Management (OEM [Office of Emergency Management] ) is tasked with creating a culture of emergency preparedness and response across the University. OEM [Office of Emergency Management] is responsible for preparing for unexpected events and ensuring that the services carried out by departments across campus are addressed during and after an emergency. By actively participating in continuity planning, we can decrease the amount of disruption to the lives and schedules of students, faculty, and staff.

Contact OEM [Office of Emergency Management] to receive guidance for developing your continuity plan at or 972.883.4111.

Our work is vulnerable to unplanned events. Although UT Dallas hopes a disaster plan is never needed, we want to be prepared for unexpected events. A continuity plan describes:

  • How we might carry on our teaching, research and service functions under conditions of diminished resources: loss of space, equipment, IT [Information Technology] infrastructure and/or people.
  • How we might resume these functions if they have been interrupted by an unplanned event.
  • How we can prepare. A good continuity plan will include a list of action items to limit our vulnerability, lessen damage and ease our recovery. These may include things we can do now as well as items that may require future resource allocations.

Continuity Planning is a key responsibility of each of us at UT Dallas. Continuity Planning ensures that the services we deliver are addressed during an emergency and that we have the least amount of disruption to the lives and schedules of students, faculty, and staff. It allows us to continue the core mission of our institution: teaching, research, and public service.

Continuity Planning is the process whereby an organization ensures the maintenance of critical operations when confronted with adverse events such as natural disasters, technology failures, human errors or terrorism. The objectives of a continuity plan are to minimize loss to the organization, continue to serve customers and maintain administrative operations.

The University has an obligation to protect and provide for students, faculty, staff and visitors in the event of a major disruption of our operation. This includes the ability of each department to provide expected services and to carry out functions critical to the mission of the University should an event occur that interrupts the normal course of operations. Failure to have an adequate continuity plan could lead to financial disaster, interruptions of academic classes, failure of research projects and delays in completing other mission critical activities.

Our campus goal is to become sufficiently “event-ready“ that we can continue our teaching, research and service mission with minimal interruption. To reach that goal, we help departments throughout the campus create continuity plans that identify coping strategies when events occur as well as preparations that can be done in advance. We also advise campus leadership on overall campus readiness so that any issues and needs that are beyond the scope of individual departments are advanced to the appropriate parties for solution.



Continuity management is ensuring the continuity or uninterrupted provision of critical operations and services. It is an ongoing process with several complementary elements, including disaster recovery.

UT Dallas’ mission is to continue research, teaching and public service despite potentially disruptive events. In order to achieve this capability, the UT Dallas Department of Environmental Health and Safety directs a comprehensive disaster management and continuity of operations program that incorporates elements of safety, disaster preparedness and recovery for all University units.


UT Dallas is exposed to many hazards, all of which have the potential to disrupt the community, create casualties and damage, or destroy public or private property. Continuity Plans play a vital role in the all-hazards disaster preparedness approach for UT Dallas. Through continuity planning, UT Dallas mission-critical entities develop an understanding of their core business processes and interdependencies needed to effectively prevent and respond to operational disruptions.

Mission Statement

The mission of The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) Continuity Program is to establish and support an on-going contingency planning program to evaluate the impact of significant events that may adversely affect students, faculty, staff and assets. This planning is designed to ensure that the University can recover its mission critical functions, meet its research, teaching and public service responsibility to its stakeholders, and comply with the requirements of Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5; Texas Administrative Code Title 1, Part 10, Chapter 202, Subchapter C, Rule §202.74; and The University of Texas System UTS 172 Emergency Management policy.

How is the University’s Mission Threatened?

The University’s mission can be affected in various ways by each hazard event. Although damages to buildings and costs of repairs are important, also consider:

  • Initial estimates of potential failed experiments.
  • Lost administrative and research data.
  • Damaged libraries and collections.
  • Damaged computers and communications systems.
  • Loss of historically or architecturally significant structures or items.
  • Loss of important structures.
  • Injuries to students, faculty and staff.
  • Disruption to teaching and research.
  • Inability to attract new students.
  • Income losses.

Furthermore, a disaster will set back our capital expansion and modernization efforts, making it difficult to keep current with needs imposed by cutting-edge technology and research innovations. Repair and retrofit will become a priority for capital funds, at least for some period of time. Since the University may be dependent on matters beyond its immediate control, these items also must be taken into account:

  • Damage to city- or utility-owned facilities.
  • Transportation lifelines.
  • Residential buildings stock in the community.

Goals and Objectives


The Office of Business Services assists the UT Dallas community in preparing for events that would threaten the continuity of our campus mission. The goals for successful Continuity Planning (CP [Continuity Planning] ) are that each vice president/provost, dean, director, department chair or supervisor assumes responsibility for the operational continuity in their respective units. Responsibilities include but are not limited to:

  • Identification and prioritization of critical business process functions.
  • Regular assessment of the potential impact of various types of events / disasters.
  • Definition of departmental responsibilities and emergency arrangements.
  • Documentation of all procedures and responsibilities.
  • Communication of continuity and recovery plans to all necessary individuals.
  • Participation in an annual exercise to test continuity plans.
  • Identify gaps, best practices and updates after an exercise, and share findings with Business Services for implementation.
  • Annual review of continuity plans to ensure they are complete and up-to-date.

Whatever the event, our campus goal is to become sufficiently “event-ready“ that we can continue our teaching, research and service mission with minimal disruption.


The objectives of our CP [Continuity Planning] s are to minimize financial loss to the University or its components; continue to serve students, staff, faculty and visitors; and mitigate the effects disruptions can have on the University’s strategic plans, reputation, operations and ability to remain compliant with applicable laws and regulations. All emergency planning and response provisions of the Emergency Operations Plan document and other annexes are in effect.

  1. Ensure essential functions can be performed, if applicable, under all conditions.
  2. Reduce the loss of life and minimize property damage and loss.
  3. Execute an order of succession, in the event a disruption renders that organization’s leadership unable, unavailable or incapable of assuming and performing their responsibilities.
  4. Reduce or mitigate disruptions to operations.
  5. Protect essential functions, equipment, records and other assets in the event of a disruption.
  6. Achieve the organization’s timely and orderly recovery and reconstitution from an emergency.
  7. Ensure and validate continuity readiness through a dynamic and integrated continuity test, training, and exercise (TT&E [Test, Training, & Exercise] ) program and operational capability.

Continuity Authority


State of Texas

The University of Texas System:

UTS 172 Emergency Management

  • Attend a 45-minute introduction to the Continuity Planning Tool.
  • Appoint a departmental Continuity Planning coordinator.
  • Create a planning group, e.g., upper and middle managers, assistant deans, directors, faculty and researchers.
  • Decide the number of plans needed, e.g., one for entire department or school or for each unit.
  • Identify critical functions, services and personnel (e.g., classroom and lab scheduling, paying employees, purchasing, testing and grading posting), and develop alternate procedures.
  • Document critical contact information for your department, staff of other units and stakeholders.
  • Improvise scenarios to test your plan.
  • Retain an electronic and hard copy of your CP [Continuity Plan] and build staff awareness.
  • Update CP [Continuity Plan] on regular basis.

Continuity Planning Scenarios

People, animals, buildings (structures and contents), communication systems and utilities are all vulnerable to hazard events. Where are key facilities relative to the areas most at risk? Will campus employees have access to the campus, especially those who provide essential services or maintain critical facilities? Estimate the time needed to get critical activities back in working order. Any hazards may impact the following:

  • Space: Damage to or loss of primary facility classrooms, labs, offices.
  • Infrastructure: Loss of data, IT [Information Technology] functions, power, water, sewer, networks, phones.
  • People: Loss of employees, faculty, staff, students.
  • Equipment: Computers, microscopes.
  • Funds: Income stream, research grants.



Utility loss following disaster creates serious problems for the entire community, including homes and businesses. Without electricity, gas, water and phone service, the ability to respond to the emergency will be greatly hampered. There will be substantial threat to research projects and specimen collections that depend on temperature control, fluid flows, gas or light. Business resumption will be impossible without basic utilities. Furthermore, the campus may need outside help repairing University-owned and operated utilities.



Losing even a small percentage of the available housing units for students will create the need for temporary shelter for displaced individuals. Reducing risks in community housing-owned or rented-is a high priority for UT Dallas.



University administrators need a basic understanding of disaster mitigation and recovery issues. It is essential to keep decision-makers informed on critical processes.



Faculty are vulnerable to great loss if a disaster destroys their buildings, laboratories, computer systems and databases, books and papers, course notes and specimen collections. Disasters can force universities and colleges to suspend their primary activity of teaching students. Such closures disrupt the continuity of instruction and limit the ability of the institution to deliver the services that students expect. In severe cases, a lengthy interruption can result in a semester being cancelled and tuition refunded. Prioritization of instructional needs may need to occur at the school or departmental level. Several levels of contact may be needed to ensure that appropriate parties are involved in this process.



Staffs are critical to the function of a University, and will be among the most receptive to a message regarding risk management. These are people who have access to the dean or department head and who understand how the organization operates.



Students who are unaware of how to protect themselves in an emergency are at greater risk of loss to life or property. Educating students about risk reduction and reassuring their parents must be part of the curriculum. Information is distributed to students through student orientations, student newspaper, emails, flyers, residence hall peer advisors, social media, and our website.



Alumni may be enlisted to support the goals and programs of the continuity project financially or through technical assistance. Keep alumni well-informed about risk management through the campus website and at alumni functions.

Testing and Exercising Your Plan


Unit Continuity Plans should be exercised at least once a year. The exercise should include the following:

  • Identify exercise objectives.
  • Conduct exercises to validate the viability of the plan.
  • Document exercise results and the steps proposed to correct any problems.
  • Make appropriate changes to the plan base on the lessons learned.


Units will assure that continuity training is provided to all staff to ensure they can fulfill their responsibility in the recovery process. Communicate your CP [Continuity Plan] to employees. Plans should be reviewed by the unit head once per year. Areas that may need updating are:

  • Critical Functions – Any new ones to be added or updates needed for existing ones.
  • Status of each of your action items. You may also need to add additional action items.
  • Key Resources – You may upload an existing document, e.g., name and phone numbers of all personnel in your area.
  • Information Technology – If you added new software applications or servers review the information technology tab to update these items.

Things to Think About While Developing Your CP [Continuity Plan]



  • Develop and embed alternate modes of teaching (distance learning technology).
  • Prioritize courses for times when fewer classrooms may be available (list all high priority courses).
  • Use same course materials for different sections of a course (so instructors can sub for each other).
  • Exams: guidelines for use of take-home exams, term papers and on-line exams.
  • Grades: guidelines for maintenance of grade records and calculation of grades during periods of duress.
  • Communication strategy for rapidly notifying instructors, students and staff about alternative instruction modes.
  • Resolve issues relating to continuance of financial aid when students are forced to lower their course load.
  • Develop additional technology tools for instruction, laboratory courses and administering of exams.
  • Electronic archive (webcasts) of high-priority courses.
  • Departments develop plans for substitution instructors for high-priority courses when needed.



  • Keep good records for replacement/reimbursement.
  • Plan for relocation or consolidation of lab space.
  • Duplicate storage of records, materials and specimens, and inventory of freezers for sharing.
  • Bolt-and-brace lab equipment.
  • Hold advance discussions with research sponsors.
  • Develop relationships with other universities and corporate partners.


Vital Records

Vital records are defined as records that are needed to support an organization’s functions following a disruptive event. Departments shall review statutory and regulatory responsibilities pertaining to records that facilitate the operations of the department.

Vital records comprise a relatively small fraction of the organization’s total volume of records, yet are an integral part of the organization’s overall continuity plan. Vital records include electronic and hard copy documents, references and recordings necessary to support the resumption of a department’s essential functions after or during a critical situation.

Vital records support the critical functions of the University’s departments. They are the records necessary to mobilize and protect material and human resources, services and systems.

  • Emergency plans and directive(s), or other authorizing issuances, including information needed to strategize and implement continuity plans and procedures.
  • Orders of succession.
  • Delegations of authority.
  • Staffing assignments.
  • Relocation plans.
  • Vital records inventory, locations, file plans and protection methods.
  • Site maps and engineering drawings, especially those that would be required to recover the use of a facility.
  • Records required to protect the health and safety of personnel.
  • Records required to support personnel on travel.
  • Resources necessary to make acquisitions.


Rights and Interest Records

Legal records are essential to preserve the rights and interest of individual persons, e.g.: students, faculty and staff. Examples of vital records include personal security files, official personnel files, contracts and vouchers. These records are required to reestablish the department and to protect the legal and financial interests of the University after an emergency. They must provide organized and sufficient data to assist in rebuilding the college/department.

  • Payroll, Financial, Budget records, accounts receivable records.
  • Personnel, Leave, Health and Insurance records.
  • Contracts and Agreements.
  • Grants and Leases.
  • Entitlements.
  • Obligations, which, if lost, would impose a legal or financial risk.
  • Systems documentation for electronic systems that manage personnel and financial records.


Identification and Prioritization of Mission Essential Functions

Mission Essential Functions are the key business operations that sustain a business. If a department experiences a debilitating event, it may not be able to resume all functions at full capacity, but it can begin with its priorities. For this reason, decide which services are most important and how to resume them first.


Equipment Inventory and Replacement Providers

It’s essential to complete an equipment inventory before a disaster occurs because it is almost impossible to do so after one. Continuity cannot be expeditious without rapid replacement of supplies and equipment.


Mutual Aid Agreement — Continuity Memorandums of Understanding

Does a department conduct specialized services or teaching that might be impossible to resume within a short period of time? Are there neighboring businesses or schools that might reciprocate continuity agreements through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU [Memorandum of Understanding] ) to protect this business function? Could mutual aid reciprocation save research? A continuity memorandum of understanding is an agreement that promises emergency support services to one or both parties.


General Pool Classroom Information

  • Number of classrooms in use.
  • Capacity of each classroom.
  • Standard audio visual equipment in each classrooms (projectors, computers, screens).
  • Classroom calendars (hours/days classroom is in use).
  • Furniture in classrooms (desks, chairs, podiums).


Create a Call Tree for All Offices

The use of a call tree can streamline communication for offices of up to 200 members. A call tree should logically cluster employee groups so that managers and teams are communicating and no one person has too many calls to make. A call tree can quickly inform a relatively large group of individuals about conditions of the business following a critical event.


  1. Develop a student orientation program in which all students are taught the technology tools used to deliver classes online.
  2. Encourage all students to use the course management system, web conferencing for discussions, access to course syllabus, etc…
  3. Ensure that students are experienced with the technology before an emergency occurs.
  4. Faculty members need to be experienced with the technology before the crisis occurs.
  5. One-time trainings just don’t do the job.
  6. Daily use of the e-learning, web conferencing and related technologies.
  7. Build the tools into the class – blend some portion of your classes.
  8. Use the electronic tools regularly – they are efficient, less expensive and green.
  9. Try blending at least a portion of your classes so students and faculty members build electronic rapport.
  10. Build relationship with faculty members at other institutions by using virtual guest lecture.

The Continuity Planning and Recovery Guide for Laboratories and Research Facilities (PDF [Portable Document Format File] , 751KB) has been developed to help laboratory managers, principal investigators, and others, develop a continuity plan to help ensure that vital research operations can continue following a disaster or major disruption. A checklist (PDF [Portable Document Format File] , 148KB) version of this guide has also been created to provide more condensed, step-by-step instructions to laboratories and research facilities interested in completing the Continuity Planning and Recovery Guide for Laboratories and Research Facilities. The Continuity Planning and Recovery Guide for Laboratories and Research Facilities and the Continuity Planning and Recovery Checklist for Laboratories and Research Facilities and can be found below.

Contact the Office of Emergency Management at to develop a continuity plan for your lab and/or research facility.

To help mitigate the damage or recovery time after a disaster or disruptive event occurs, the Office of Emergency Management encourages laboratories and research facilities to create an emergency response plan. The Emergency Response Guide for Laboratories and Research Facilities has been developed to help faculty, TAs [Teaching Assistants] , PIs [Principal Investigators] , and lab managers respond to a disaster or emergency that interrupts their normal operations. For more information or assistance in developing your own Emergency Response Guide, please contact the Office of Emergency Management at

Introduction to Continuity Planning

We are required by Texas Administrative Code, Title 1, Part 10, Chapter 202, Subchapter C, Rule §202.74 and UTS 172 to have Continuity Plans (CP [Continuity Plans] ) in place to ensure the continuous performance of critical functions during an emergency, e.g.: natural disaster, electrical outage, system failure, and others. The objectives of CP [Continuity Plans] are to minimize financial loss to the University or its components; continue to serve students, staff, faculty and visitors; and mitigate the effects disruptions can have on the University’s strategic plans, reputation, operations and ability to remain compliant with applicable laws and regulations. Continuity planning enables departments/units to:

  • Reduce loss of life and minimize damage and loss to critical processes and information.
  • Provide for a succession of leadership to perform necessary duties when normal leadership is suspended.
  • Reduce or prevent disruptions to operations.
  • Protect facilities, infrastructure, equipment, records and other necessary assets.
  • Recover from an emergency in a timely and orderly manner, and resume full services.

It is the responsibility of each department/unit to develop a CP [Continuity Plan] that allow students to continue their education, faculty to teach and continue their research, and staff to work and support the University. Your department’s CP [Continuity Plan] represents your commitment to preparedness, response, resumption, recovery and restoration planning.

For help in creating a continuity plan, please contact Continuity Planning.

Continuity Planning Services (PDF [Portable Document Format File] , 703KB)

Intro to Continuity Planning Training (PPTX [Office Open XML Presentation] , 1.97MB)

Annual Reviews & Our Continuity Planning Tool

Each year your unit will be asked to do an annual review and update your plan. Reviewing your plan and your action items annually will keep them current, and increase the likelihood that your unit will be able to rebound gracefully from a disaster-event.

To prepare for the annual review:

  1. Departmental review. Review your plan in the Continuity Tool. You may access your plan with your UTD NetID and password. The view-or-print menu presents your plan in PDF [Portable Document Format File] format for printing, emailing, or saving to any location.
  2. Update your plan as needed. Areas that may need updating are:
    • Critical Functions – Any new ones to be added or updates needed for existing ones. To update your critical functions click on the add/edit detail link by each of your existing functions.
    • Status of each of your action items. You may also need to add additional action items.
    • Key Resources — You may upload an existing document, e.g.: name and phone numbers of all personnel in your area.
    • Information Technology – If you added new software applications or servers, review the information technology tab to update these items. You may upload an existing document containing the information requested in this section.

For help in conducting an annual continuity plan review, please contact Continuity Planning.

Migration to Continuity Planning (PPTX [Office Open XML Presentation] , 918KB)

Continuity Planning User Guide (PDF [Portable Document Format File] , 850KB)

Testing and Exercising Your Plan

An exercise should be conducted at least once a year. The exercise should include the following:

  • Identify exercise objectives.
  • Conduct exercises to validate the viability of the plan.
  • Document exercise results and the steps proposed to correct any problems.
  • Make appropriate changes to the plan base on the lessons learned.
  • Continuity of Operations training PowerPoint presentation.

For help in testing and exercising your plan, please contact Continuity Planning.



Business Impact Analysis (BIA [Business Impact Analysis] )

An exploratory component to reveal any vulnerability and a planning component to develop strategies for minimizing risk. The report describes the potential risks specific to UT Dallas. One of the basic assumptions behind our BIA [Business Impact Analysis] is that every component of the organization is reliant upon the continued functioning of every other component, but that some are more crucial than others are and require a greater allocation of funds or priority in service in the wake of a disaster.

Mutual Aid Agreements (MAA [Mutual Aid Agreements] )

Arrangements between governments or organizations, either public or private, for reciprocal aid and assistance during emergencies where the resources of a single jurisdiction or organization are insufficient or inappropriate for the tasks that must be performed to control the situation. These are commonly referred to as mutual aid agreements.

Stafford Act

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act) authorizes federal agencies to undertake special measures to assist state efforts in rendering aid, assistance, emergency services, and reconstruction and rehabilitation of areas devastated by disaster.

Frequently Asked Questions



What is the purpose of having a Continuity Plan?

The purpose of having a continuity plan is to ensure:

  • Continuation of department/division.
  • Succession of key personnel.
  • Disruptions to operations are reduced.
  • Services are resumed, e.g.: teaching, research and public service.
  • A timely recovery is achieved.
  • Financial losses are minimized.


How long does it take to create a CP [Continuity Plan] ?

Think of this as roughly a four to six week project. Most of the development time will be time spent waiting for meetings to happen and for people to come to agreements on priorities and action items.


What’s in the plan?

  • Planning Assumptions
  • Critical Functions
  • Vital Records and Databases
  • Dependencies
  • Succession Planning
  • Communications
  • Attachments
    • Mutual Aid Agreements
    • Policies and Procedures
    • Phone Trees


What is Recovery Time Objective (RTO [Recovery Time Objective] )?

  • Used to prioritize critical functions.
  • Based on maximum allowable downtime.
  • Determine the RTO [Recovery Time Objective] for your critical function:
    • Consider
    • Peak times
    • Legal, financial, contractual, and regulatory factors.


Who should be in the planning group?

  • Upper and middle managers: assistant deans, assistant directors, your departmental HR [Human Resources] and IT [Information Technology] managers, building coordinators, etc… These employees have access to the dean or department head and understand how the organization operates. Keep the group size manageable.
  • Faculty input is essential. Try to enlist at least a couple of faculty members into your group.


What is the role of the planning group?

  • The group will typically meet and discuss, with little-or-no “homework”.
  • The coordinator will operate the UT Dallas Continuity Tool, often right at the meetings using a projector. The coordinator also can provide the group with the printed plan (which includes all entries-to-date) for discussion.


How many plans does my department/school need?

  • This is a crucial decision. For academic units, planning generally happens best at the level of the academic department. There are exceptions depending on the extent of integration and centralization of functions in the school.
  • For support units, the answer depends on the structure of the unit and the number of critical functions the unit performs.


What is the difference between processes and critical functions?

  • 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 “buying food, food storage, cooking, serving and cleanup”.
  • We focus on major functions because processes are too specific and detailed for our level of planning.


How do I know which functions are critical to my department or school?

  1. Identify all the normal functions your unit performs.
  2. Determine if any of the normal functions are critical.

    A normal function is “critical” if that function must be restarted during the first 30 days post-disaster to enable teaching or research to resume.

  3. Identify any extraordinary functions your unit performs.

    These are things we would not normally do, but which the crisis demands of us.


How I access the Continuity Planning Tool?

Contact EH&S [Environmental Health and Safety] Continuity Planning or your organization’s CP [Continuity Plan] coordinator to gain access to the UT Dallas Continuity Planning Tool.


Whom should I contact if I have any questions?

Contact EH&S [Environmental Health and Safety] Continuity Planning