On June 24, 2015, ITS senior staff, ITS team leads, and others from across campus–over 50 people in all–joined leaders from Campus Safety and Security, and other administrative and academic guests for our annual ITS Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery (BC/DR) Tabletop Exercise. This years scenario challenged participants to take action when a weather event created flooding and an eventual prolonged electrical outage. Injuries and life safety issues bringing new considerations were included in the exercise. With all the flooding we have experienced this spring in Central Texas, the exercise was timely and felt real.
It was encouraging to see how we have learned and improved our emergency response over the past few years. The drill was successful and addressed many of the findings from previous annual BC/DR exercises. We did discover that the following areas need more focus:
- Ensuring the availability of emergency contact data
- Engaging Building Managers more closely in the BC/DR process
- Increasing staff awareness of the location of emergency equipment and supplies
- Creating more channels for communication; e.g., radios
- Planning for the impact cloud services will have on BC/DR in the future; e.g., UTmail, Canvas, Office 365, UTBox
Next steps are for ITS leaders and staff to develop action items that will begin addressing these areas. Updates will be forthcoming to let you know how the lessons we learned are being addressed. Feedback from the survey taken at the end of the day was great:
- We must practice every year. New people join ITS and need to know what to do in an emergency. Those of us who have been here longer need to exercise these mental muscles at least annually, so we are better prepared when (not if) UT Austin has a major incident.
- Most all staff in attendance would and did walk away from the event with a higher understanding of the overall BC/DR processes in ITS.
- I liked that the people were considered. When the power went out in the FAC, the first thing we did was check the elevators first to be sure no one was stuck and walked around checking on the students.
- Human safety was mentioned first many times and that was good. An action item is to have training (fire extinguisher, crowd control) on how to handle those situations.
- I appreciated the way the organizers orchestrated the event that enabled great integration by the participants.
Special thanks to our executive observers Mary Knight, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer (Interim); Bob Harkins, Associate Vice President, Campus Safety & Security; Jamie Southerland, Associate Vice President, Shared Services; and Jim Gary, UT System Administration IT Services, who attended the tabletop exercise and provided valuable insights and perspectives.
And, of course, a big thanks to the ITS-BC/DR Project Team who prepared this exercise and to everyone who participated in this years event. These practice exercises help us be better prepared when the student, faculty and staff of the University need us the most.