Your Pandemic and Business Continuity Plans should be evaluated annually. With the flu season upon us, EHS professionals need to assess and fine tune pandemic planning and how it relates to their overall business continuity plan.
Whether in schools or corporate environments, a pandemic threat creates uncertainty and breeds fear. During the upcoming 2010-2011 flu season, CDC expects influenza viruses and the 2009 H1N1 virus to continue to cause illnesses. However, just as we saw in 2009, new and resurgent flu strains can always appear in any given season. Communities and corporations should prepare in the event that another health crisis emerges and create a plan that allows for continuity of operations.
A Pandemic Response Plan (PRP) should document procedures and methods in the event of a pandemic outbreak among the local population and/or the local workforce/contractors, resulting in disruption of normal operations.
Specifically, the purpose of a Pandemic Response Plan is to:
- Identify how additional resources and personnel will be made available to support the organization.
- Identify how internal and external communications will be maintained.
- Identify how the reputation impact will be managed during and after the outbreak.
- Identify how the technical and commercial implications of the outbreak will be managed, and where in the organization this support will be obtained.
When developing a Pandemic Response Plan, it is useful to define impact levels. Example Levels are as follows:
- Level 1 - Normal Operations, which include contact verification with key stakeholder (both internal and external) and conducting pandemic plan briefings
- Level 2 - Business as usual with staff directed to work from remote locations, if feasible
- Level 3 - Business as usual with limited on-site staff. (Only essential employees who cannot work remotely would report on-site)
- Level 4 - Emergency Service Level with normal levels of operation with minimum staffing.
- Level 5 - All non-critical operations are suspended and critical business processes are examined for those that can be suspended.
- Level 6 - Return to normal operations after situational assessment.
The best practice, as with other emergency plans, is to develop pandemic plans during normal conditions, prior to any threatened outbreak. Prior training on the pandemic plan allows for a complete understanding of expected behaviors and processes if an actual outbreak were to occur.
For tips and best practices on designing a crisis management program, download our Best Practices for Crisis Management.