What are the guidelines for designating and assigning “essential personnel”?

In the event of a public health emergency or other crisis that requires access to the University to be severely limited, there are certain people who must report to campus to perform duties vital to the continuity of the University.  Additionally, there will be other essential staff performing critical functions who can perform these duties from a remote location such as home.

Essential functions are those that need to be fulfilled when normal University operations have been suspended or closed. Departments must evaluate their department’s impact on the overall goal of maintaining essential University operations. Additionally, for continuity, they must designate these essential functions in advance. Pre-designation is especially important in incidents that happen with little notice. Individuals who directly support these functions are expected to report for work during the emergency period as requested by their department unless specifically directed by the department not to do so. The following information provides some general guidelines to be considered when designating the essential function positions.

Essential/Critical functions or responsibilities are activities:

  • to preserve the health, well-being and safety of the Purdue campus community,
  • to assist and support students and others who must remain on campus with needs generated by the emergency,
  • to ensure timely and effective communication before, during, and after the emergency,
  • to provide utilities to maintain and protect campus buildings,
  • to maintain the health and well-being of animals,
  • to preserve the campus cyber infrastructure,
  • to preserve the core functions of the university (i.e. payroll, benefits, finance); and
  • to protect assets required to allow the University to resume its normal functions when the emergency /public health emergency has subsided; and
  • to preserve university facilities, including essential maintenance and repair

These assets may include, but are not limited to:

  • cultures of valuable, unique, or irreplaceable living species,
  • valuable, unique, or irreplaceable research specimens or samples,
  • the environment surrounding and sustaining sensitive materials,
  • facilities and equipment,
  • sensitive or irreplaceable data, or
  • critical business continuation functions.

Personnel designated by a unit head as “essential personnel” are employees who are needed in order to provide the minimum level of service in the department (i.e., human resources, finance, emergency services, utilities and provision of food and housing) and those needed to prevent irreparable damage to research and mechanical systems and those needed to maintain core functions of the university. Each affected unit head will designate Essential Personnel in his or her college or unit and notify them of their role and responsibility.

Examples of staff members who are expected to be defined as critical or essential:

Police officers and fire fightersRespond to emergencies, maintain order
Certain power plant and utilities staffMaintain utilities
Certain operations and maintenance staffMonitor facilities, repair serious problems
Certain grounds staffRefuse removal, assist in equipment supply
Certain computer staffMaintain infrastructure, support emergency operations
Certain building services staffRefuse removal, cleaning of occupied areas
Certain senior university staffMake decisions
Certain business office staffProcess emergency payments and payroll
Certain human resources staffProcess payroll, benefits, employee relations
Certain animal caretakersFeed and monitor animals
Certain health care staffTriage, treat students and staff, dispense medication
Certain housing and food staffFeed and house students, staff
Certain veterinary medicine staffCare of injured/sick animals
Certain ADDL staffProvide diagnostic services
Certain communications staffDisseminate information, policies
Certain student services staffAssist students remaining on campus; continue recruitment, admissions processes

The above list is by no means exhaustive but illustrates types of personnel considered as essential to report to campus or provide support from a remote location.  While the examples above illustrate the type of staff that are expected to be designated as essential, it will be a departmental decision to determine these in advance or as we progress into the crisis. 

Additionally, essential staff may change depending on factors such as the time during the year, severity of the public health emergency, and the length of time suspension of classes or normal operations is in force.  The number of essential support staff, such as building services personnel will be highly dependent on the number of other students and staff who are on campus.  

Prior to or at the declaration of a public health emergency period, Executive Vice Presidents, Vice Presidents, Vice Provosts, Deans, Directors, and Department Heads should review the designation of essential staff and the expectations for all employees during this period.