Tell us about yourself – your name, company, title, and responsibilities?

Chelsea Selbig

I’m Chelsea Selbig, a senior business continuity specialist for Corewell Health (previously Spectrum Health) in Michigan. Within my role in corporate business continuity (BC), I specifically develop and drive our BC strategy, create plans which impact all divisions of our healthcare system and our health plan, and coordinate executive response and sponsorship for the program. I also take an on-call incident commander role for the whole system (22 hospitals, more than 300 outpatient facilities, and a 1.2 million-member health plan) and am involved in emergency incident response.

How did you get into the business continuity industry?

I got into the business continuity industry by way of emergency preparedness and response. As an undergraduate college student, I took a job as a third-shift 911 dispatcher. After graduating, I moved to Vail, Colo., where I held a few different entry-level positions before landing in safety and facilities compliance, a position which married my need for a little adrenaline with my desire to help others in healthcare.

After finishing a master’s degree and relocating back to Michigan, it took a few years to get back into a highly coveted, yet rarely vacant emergency preparedness position in healthcare. Yet from there, I really hit the ground running and quickly immersed myself back to the organized chaos of response. However, it seemed like I was continually responding to eerily similar technological incidents, and it was clear we needed to get more proactive in our planning and approach. Our traditional emergency response plans weren’t going to cut it for business operations and technology downtimes any longer (nor should they), so I started putting operational plans together (it wasn’t until later I realized these were technically disaster recovery plans). From this point forward, I recognized my need to learn more about business continuity and started the groundwork to build a robust program.

Tell us about some of the challenges you have encountered in your career.

COVID-19 changed the way many of us work and view our criticalities in BC. Pre-COVID-19, the biggest thing that kept me up at night was concern over how we would relocate thousands of workers to different sites, or home if a building became unusable. COVID-19 forced us to adapt overnight to situations we previously considered “worst-case scenarios.”

I hold a dual role where I am involved in incident response, so for me, COVID-19 meant I put all BC work on hold and shifted into a command center role for the 840 days our command center was open for COVID-19 response. During those 840 days, I:

  • Redesigned in-hospital morgue space to increase capacity and identified external morgue overflow spaces within the community.
  • Matched clinical volunteers to our highest-need units during the height of hospital surge.
  • Operationalized and helped lead two mass vaccination clinics (one of which did a whopping 12,500 vaccines in a single day).
  • Lead weekly meetings with participants from other Michigan hospitals and state representatives to gain understanding of the pandemic situation, response, and better support one another.

Many of these things were not covered in our pandemic plans, and as a healthcare organization, we were often tweaking urgent processes as we were implementing them with very little time to test concepts. Looking back, I wish I would have kept a journal during those 840 days because people would not believe the stories I could tell and the things we faced.

Have you had any mentors? Describe the effect they have had on your career.

I recently connected with my first official mentor, David Halford, at Fusion through DRJ’s mentoring program and know it’ll be mutually educational for both of us. However, I have had two notable role models whose work ethic and curious mindset have propelled me in my career today.

First, my maternal grandfather strategically climbed the ranks within the banking industry before retiring in his 50s as the bank’s president. As a child, I remember hearing his career stories and being proud of how he connected with employees and customers through intentional relationship building and humility. He consistently made integrity-driven change which benefited customers most rather than the bank’s own bottom line.

My mother is the second role model I’d like to highlight. My mom became a single parent around the time I was in kindergarten and has always had an unshakable vision for her career in environmental science. Similar to my grandfather, she’s consistently grown her way to the highest leadership level and done it while continuing to work alongside her teams. As a child, I can recall a few weekends spent in the corporate boardroom, watching VHS tapes on the boardroom TV with my brother so she could make sure they hit critical turnaround time deadlines. As a kid, we always thought those days were so fun, but as an adult, I realize the sacrifices she had to make. Ultimately, she’s taught me the importance of coaching others along the way and being a leader others can rely on and admire.

What are some lessons learned you still leverage today?

Networking has been integral in creating a robust BC program. The first conference I attended professionally was a DRJ conference. I am grateful to those I have met along the way, and especially those in healthcare systems who still answer my emails or phone calls when I am stumped and seek advice on how to best approach something. The relationships I have built through networking and open information sharing help provide a sense of belonging and togetherness which otherwise can be hard to find.

What aspects of working in this industry would you like to see change or evolve?

I would like to see more free resources available to new BC practitioners who have little funding and formal education in the profession. Especially in healthcare, it is hard to decipher how to build a BC program [continuity of operations (COOP), and emergency response is generally the extent of leader knowledge around resiliency] when you are missing resources. It can be daunting and discouraging, so I would love to see readily accessible, easily digestible guides or templates to get people started.

What types of formal training and certifications have you pursued, and what kinds of learning and networking opportunities are you seeking to continue your professional development?

Today, most of my BC training comes from real world experience and learning through conferences, webinars, and networking. However, in support of career growth and overall marketability, I will be obtaining a BC certification through DRI in Q1 of 2023.

From an emergency preparedness standpoint, I’ve attended several free week-long courses through FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, Ala., on topics such as mass casualty incident management and healthcare facility emergency management. Although their course offerings are tailored to incident response specifically, they are entirely free (airfare and lodging included), and you’ll play varied roles in numerous exercises during the week. I’ve also taken a whole host of other online FEMA courses to support my command center role.

I’m also looking to start sharing my stories and lessons learned at conferences and webinars this year, especially with new practitioners who are looking to make connections and get started in BC.

What gets you excited about your career?

At this point in my career, I am excited for the next 12 months. I have worked to put all the intricate pieces together (creating tiering methodology, a steering committee, roadmaps, templates, risk assessments, and the hefty task of onboarding BC software). Now the puzzle is coming together in a thoughtful yet flexible way. Building a BC program from a shell of a few plans to its state today has been a massive undertaking of which I am proud.

What advice would you give to those embarking on a career in this industry?

Just get started. The first plans you create do not need to be complicated or capture every detail. Start with capturing the most critical details in your plans: key stakeholders, downtime steps, time thresholds for example, and build from there. No plan is ever going to be perfectly polished and all-encompassing because plans are working documents and need to be nimble. Every time you write, exercise, and use your plan in incidents, you will learn something new you can use in other plans, too.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Halford

David Halford is VP continuity solutions, product management at Fusion Risk Management. He is also a member of the DRJ Editorial Advisory Board.

Three Simple Ways to Accelerate Your Time to Test and Recover Better
Failure, outage, or test, every resilience activity is incredibly important for proving or enacting recoverability. It’s no surprise that resilience...
READ MORE >
Updating Your Business Continuity Plan for a Distributed Workforce
As we look at the global risk landscape today, it is striking just how much has changed in the past...
READ MORE >
Preparing For a BIA
So, you’ve convinced management to let you conduct a BIA. Congratulations! However, if you are tempted to immediately jump in...
READ MORE >
Are People Top of Mind in Your 2023 Business Continuity Strategy?
Traditionally, disaster recovery has focused mostly on the protection and recovery of data (still critical) – but data alone can’t...
READ MORE >