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  • Writer's pictureErika Andresen

Back to School

Is business continuity just for businesses? No. Schools either are or need to be doing business continuity. Schools provided necessary stability and service for kids (and their stressed out, working parents).

During the pandemic, businesses and schools had to pivot quickly. Doing anything quickly is sloppy. Quickly leads to “good enough” and you’re content until you’re hit in the face with a “oh, sh!t, I forgot ___.” Or until you are victim of a cyber attack.

Most schools that needed to go remote never did anything remotely before. Any school that already had a version of an e-learning platform was better off but having to scale quickly wasn’t anything anyone needed to consider before 2020. How did that go for many schools? It was like shooting fish in a barrel for cybercriminals. I’ve said it before: cybercriminals like to work smarter, not harder. And public schools with no budget to pay their teachers a proper wage are going to have a robust cybersecurity program…because they never had to.

Higher education institutions, by and large, already do business continuity. The principles are for continuous operations. They also happen to have businesses (owned and operated by the university) that make money. Higher education institutions are unique in that their campuses are essentially their own cities, with their own police force. They are seen as in loco parentis (in place of parents) since parents are paying them to not only educate their kids, but also keep them safe.

A prime example of crisis management and business continuity (crisis management is a subset of business continuity) was on shining display September 11, 2001, at New York University. I can spend pages listing out all the wonderful things they did to act instantly, to both take care of the students whose dorms were in the downtown area and the first responders who needed a break, but I’ll concentrate on something else: the fact that 9/11 was a Tuesday. By Friday, September 14, 2001, classes were back on.

Was it a rash or rush decision? No.

NYU had a special relationship with the city of New York. It wanted to return to normalcy. A return to normalcy is vital to community resilience. NYU understood that (go, violets!). It helped that NYU had the money, relationships and reputation it had. Higher education institutions have a leg up on high schools and middle schools for a few reasons. Business continuity is a key one.

Give schools the attention they deserve. They need to be protected as an integral part of the community, especially after a disaster. For everyone’s sake.

For more on the NYU response to 9/11, they put together a wonderful video describing the events of that morning and the days following. I’ve used the video in teaching my intro to emergency management course, it’s that good, to demonstrate the power of preparedness and lending to what to do when the unexpected happens.

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