University of Minnesota  Administrative Policy

Continuity of Operations (COOP)

Policy Statement

The University of Minnesota is committed to continuously maintaining operational continuity of Critical Operating Units (COUs) and essential operational services for the students, staff and faculty.

Critical Operating Units

Departments that are essential to carrying out the University's mission are deemed “Critical Operating Units.” These units must maintain a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) as well as exercise and update their plan regularly. Any unit whose Security Level is identified by Administrative Policy: Information Security as requiring a disaster recovery (DR) plan must have DR plans on file along with their COOP documentation. The DR plans are a guide for ensuring proper backup/recovery for IT resources.

COUs must identify a Continuity of Operations Coordinator (Coordinator) responsible for continuity planning. Continuity planning processes for critical operating units are coordinated through the Department of Emergency Management (DEM).  DR plans for critical operating units are coordinated through the Office of Information Technology Disaster Recovery Team (OIT-DR).

DEM will work with Coordinators for all COUs to ensure departmental review and update of their COOP occurs at least every three years.

COUs must include in their COOP clear strategies and procedures needed to continue operations and execute a recovery in the event of an interruption that compromises the ability of the COU to carry out its essential functions. The Officer of the Day or the individual unit administrator will determine when an event is significant enough to trigger execution of a COOP.

Coordinators are responsible for training employees with responsibilities for execution of some portion of a COOP. New employees in COU who are given responsibilities for implementing some portion of the COOP must be trained by the unit Coordinator on these responsibilities within 60 days of their employment start date or the date they assume the responsibility. DEM will review training compliance as part of the COOP review. If any COU depends on suppliers or other operating units to provide its essential functions, those suppliers or units must also have a continuity plan.

All Other Departments

All non-critical operating units and those units not otherwise identified by Administrative Policy: Information Security, are encouraged to have a COOP and DR plan in place for their unit to ensure continuation of programs and services in the event of a major disruption of operations, using the U of M COOP template.

Incident Management

The University of Minnesota will use the National Incident Management System (NIMS) as its standard, coordinated, and systematic method for incident management.

DEM is responsible for ensuring the NIMS approach is incorporated into the University's preparedness practices to help the University community prepare for, respond to, recover from, and reduce the effects of incidents and potential incidents whether they are intentional, accidental, or natural.

University senior leaders and staff who have functional responsibilities associated with incident management must complete NIMS training requirements as developed by the National Training Program for NIMS and attend multi-unit, multi-discipline scenario exercises intended to improve overall University integration and interoperability.

Reason for Policy

To implement Board of Regents Policy: Health and Safety (PDF) by providing a framework to protect and provide for our students, faculty, staff, and visitors in the event of a major interruption of our mission and operation. Further, the University recognizes that these obligations extend to a responsibility for each COU within the University to be able to meet its individual obligations. These obligations include the ability to provide the services expected of them and to carry out functions essential to the mission of the University should an event occur which interrupts the normal course of operations. Failure to have an adequate continuity plan could lead to unnecessary injury or loss of life, financial disaster, interruptions of academic classes, failure of research projects, and delays in completing other mission essential activities.


Primary Contact(s)David Paulu, Deputy Director of the Department of Emergency Management612-626-3293[email protected]
General Questions for all CampusesDepartment of Emergency Management612-625-8047 [email protected]
Responsible Individuals
Responsible Officer Policy Owner Primary Contact
  • Assistant Vice President for Health, Safety, and Risk Management
  • Assistant Vice President for Health, Safety, and Risk Management
  • David Paulu
    Assistant Radiation Safety Officer


Back-up Agreement

Written agreement between two parties that identifies and specifies the responsibilities of the parties as they relate to continuity and recovery in the event of an operational interruption. If the agreement is with non-University entities, it must be in contractual form. A copy of all back-up agreements must be included in the unit's COOP.

Continuity of Operation Plan (COOP)

An effort within individual departments to ensure the continued performance of minimum essential functions during a wide range of potential emergencies. This is accomplished through development of the plans, comprehensive procedures, and provision for alternate facilities, personnel, resources, interoperable communications, and vital records/databases.

Essential Employee

An employee who has been designated as essential to the operations of the University, whose presence is required regardless of the existence of an emergency condition, and whose absence from duty could endanger the safety and well-being of the campus population and/or physical plant. Employees may be designated as essential on a situational basis or for a defined period of time, e.g., in the event of an emergency.

Critical Operating Units

Operating units with mission essential functions that enable the University to:

  • Provide for public safety
  • Continue to provide essential services
  • Provide essential services or functions that must be continued in all circumstances, including functions that cannot be interrupted for 6 hours or must be resumed within 30 days

Emergency Management Policy Committee

A committee, appointed by the President, charged to provide general oversight for the entire emergency planning process, ensures appropriate cross-administration of plans and procedures, and ensure appropriate level of coordination among discreet emergency response groups.

Essential Service/Function

Any task, process or application essential to the ability of the University to provide its services or perform its activities safely and effectively. The unit administrator, with guidance from DEM, is responsible for determining if a task, application or process is considered essential.


An occurrence, regardless of cause, size, location or complexity, that requires a response to protect life or property, Incidents can, for example, include major disasters, emergencies, terrorist attacks, terrorist threats, civil unrest, wild land and urban fires, floods, hazardous materials spills, nuclear accidents, aircraft accidents, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, tropical storms, tsunamis, war-related disasters, public health and medical emergencies, and other occurrences requiring an emergency response.

Interruption / Disaster

Any incident that compromises the ability of the critical operating unit to carry out its essential functions. The determination that an interruption / disaster has occurred may be made by the individual unit administrator or by the Officer of the Day. Operating units may establish "levels" of interruption / disaster and of interruption / disaster response.

National Incident Management System (NIMS)

The national directive to enhance emergency response coordination across the United States. NIMS provides for interoperability and compatibility among Federal, State and local capabilities and includes a core set of concepts, principles, terminology and technologies covering the incident command system, unified command, training, management of resources and reporting.

Operating Unit

Any University department or division under the operational control of a chancellor, vice president, dean, director, department head or chairperson.


Any contractor, agency, department or operating unit that provides services required to support essential functions of a critical operating unit. Suppliers may or may not be University units.

Unit Administrator

The chancellor, vice president, dean, director, department head or chairperson in control of an operating unit.


Vice President for University Services

Has overall responsibility for safety, security and emergency response functions at the University, as delegated by the President in the University Emergency Operations Plan (EOP). Provides resources, support and funding to facilitate the University’s compliance with this policy. Chairs the Emergency Management Policy Committee. Serves as the primary Officer of the Day.

Department of Emergency Management

Provides guidance and assistance to operating units including development of Continuity of Operations Plans (COOP) ; assessment of COOP exercises; coordination of COOPs, reviews Critical Operating Units with EMPC. Maintain accuracy of this policy.

Office of Information Technology

Provides coordination of DR plans to COUs, including development of DR plans.

Officer of the Day

Role delegated by the President to be responsible and with the authority to implement the Emergency Operations Plan and provide overall policy direction of the University of Minnesota resources during an emergency/disaster situation. The Officer of the Day, in conjunction with DEM and the on-scene Incident Commander, determines the emergency level. The Officer of the Day assesses emergency/disaster situations and makes recommendation on whether to close all or portion(s) the Twin Cities Campus in the event of an emergency/disaster. Consults with Chancellors and DEM regarding system campus emergencies/disasters. In the event that limited resources and alternatives require that the priority for the recovery of one unit be ranked against another unit, the determination and notification of this priority will be made by the Officer of the Day.


Each system campus chancellor has the responsibility for making decisions relative to closing their respective campus in the event of severe weather or other emergencies. The Chancellors, in conjunction with the Officer of the Day, the Department of Emergency Management, the on-scene Incident Commander, will determine emergency level.

Continuity of Operations Coordinator

Serves as a focal point for COOP planning within the COU. The Coordinator will be a person designated by the Unit Administrator, and functional responsibilities include the following: responsible for creating the COOP, exercising the plan, and training employees to be proficient at their roles within the plan. Annually, with guidance and advice from DEM as requested, review and assess the unit COOP, exercise objectives and results. Update and maintain the COOP. Evaluate the impact of changes within the unit and their impact on the unit's ability to recover from a serious operational interruption.

Emergency Management Policy Committee

Provides overall strategic direction to emergency planning and communication activities. Approves list of COUs upon recommendation of DEM. Routinely assesses the emergency preparedness and safety risks of the University and leads efforts to mitigate these risks.

Unit Administrator

The Unit Administrator, with guidance from DEM, is responsible for determining if the tasks, applications or processes owned by a COU are considered essential. Designate the functional responsibilities of the Coordinator.

Related Information



July 2020 - Comprehensive Review. Includes language around disaster recovery (DR) plans, which is most relevant to the IT infrastructure.


June 2015 - Comprehensive Review, Minor Revision. Incorporates language originally existing in the National Incident Management System at the University of Minnesota policy, which allows that policy to be retired. Reflects language changes to align with terminology used in the emergency management field. Updates the policies, procedures, template, and letter clarifying compliance to reflect Federal and State Terminology on Continuity of Operations Plan.


December 2010 - Conveys the notification and training requirements for critical employees. Brings additional key policy statements forward from the Operational Continuity Plan template. Ensures that responsibilities and definitions reflect current state.


July 2008 - Updated contacts section.


April 2005 - "Any department or unit required to develop and maintain an operational continuity plan as specified in state or federal law" added to critical units list in definitions section. This was added to comply with HIPAA.


July 2004 - Policy Statement clarified that departments defined as critical operating units are required to have formal plans established, and that all departments are encouraged to have some "reasonable operational continuity plans." Policy Statement also clarified that central coordination of the continuity planning process for critical units should be available to assist departments. Responsible Officer and Responsible Office are now Vice President for University Services and the Office of the Vice President for University Services. Critical Operating Units are now defined in the definitions section. Operational Continuity Workbook and Planner now available by contacting the Department of Emergency Management.


January 1998 - Added manual on how to prepare an Operational Continuity Plan. The deadline for compliance with this policy has been extended to January 1, 1999.


April 1997