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Pandemic Planning in a Global World

Posted on Thu, Feb 25, 2016

Since the World Health Organization has declared the mosquito-borne Zika virus an international public emergency, employers should ensure prevention and response procedures are in place to minimize its spread. With reports of Zika virus infections on the rise, corporations are grappling with how to handle jobs and projects in the growing number of affected regions.

As global epidemics continue to garner the attention of corporate emergency managers, well-developed Pandemic Response Plans (PRPs) should be established and implemented, as necessary. “Best practices” dictates that PRPs, like emergency plans, should be developed during normal conditions, prior to any threatened outbreak. However, companies with global operations or multinational interactions should re-evaluate and examine ongoing pandemic risks and vulnerability factors in order to provide employees with:

  • Critical knowledge
  • Proactive procedures
  • Necessary resources 

Companies doing business in affected pandemic areas should look to their PRP to establish a safe work environment, minimize the spread of the pandemic, and preserve business continuity. Specifically, the purpose of a PRP 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.

The PRPs should document procedures and methods to minimize exposures and sustain critical business functions with reduced staffing throughout different stages of the outbreak. When developing the plan, it is useful to define impact levels for the various stages.

Level 1 - Normal Operations

  • Establish contact verification and notification measures with employees and key stakeholders (both internal and external)
  • Determine if PRP implementation is necessary if normal management procedures can manage the incident
  • Conduct briefings, promote awareness, and educate employees on pandemic
  • Determine and validate current priority projects and processes to determine which to suspend, if necessary
  • Direct staff to maintain and backup all business information and working files (data and documents) so that content is accessible to alternates and other staff members as necessary
  • Acquire necessary equipment to enable key staff to work from home , if needed

Level 2 - Heightened risk and modified PRP activation

  • Notify staff members of PRP activation and revised operational procedures.
  • Staff may be directed to work from remote locations or minimize travel to impacted areas, if feasible
  • Maintain tracking of all staff, assess well-being of staff, and identify any additional needs for support and/or resources
  • Direct staff to maintain and backup all business information and working files (data and documents) so that content is accessible to alternates and other staff members

Level 3 - Business as usual with limited on-site staff

  • Only essential employees who cannot work remotely would report on-site
  • Determine and validate current priority projects and processes to determine which to suspend, if necessary
  • Review and establish guidelines for backfilling resources, including leadership
  • Confirm availability of local and/or remote alternates for critical roles
  • Maintain tracking of all staff, assess well-being of staff, and identify any needs for support and/or resources
  • Direct staff to maintain and backup all business information and working files (data and documents) so that content is accessible to alternates and other staff members

Level 4 - Emergency Service Level with normal levels of operation with minimized staffing

  • Notify internal and external entities with dependencies on critical business operations.
  • Re-evaluate current priority projects and processes to determine which to suspend, if necessary
  • Proactively notify corporate executives, team leads, and other contacts of availability and work location, and maintain out of office phone, e-mail notices, and calendars, as appropriate.
  • Distribute peripherals (e.g. external disk drives) for home use and distribute as needed
  • Direct all non-essential staff to work at home, if possible.

Level 5 - Suspend all non-critical operations examine critical business processes

  • Maintain tracking of all staff, assess well-being of staff, and identify any needs for support and/or resources
  • Implement modified operations schedule with critical staff. Excuse non-essential staff and place on standby.
  • Maintain critical staffing levels and engage emergency contractors
  • Secure facilities

Level 6 - Return to normal operations after situational assessment

  • Communicate resuming operations date with employees and key stakeholders
  • Review time records and pay overtime as required
  • Update and archive file directories, if necessary
  • Update Pandemic Response Plans, as necessary

TRP Corp - Emergency Response Planning Crisis Management

Tags: Pandemic Planning, Pandemic Plan

Preparedness, Planning, and Pandemic Plans

Posted on Thu, Feb 06, 2014

According to historians, the 1918 “Spanish Flu” pandemic, which killed nearly 50 million people worldwide, may have originated from emigrating Chinese laborers. According to a study published in The Lancet, a pandemic similar to the one that occurred in 1918 would kill nearly 62 million people today.

In recent weeks, China has seen a spike in H7N9 cases and experts are worried that infections will continue to rise. The World Health Organization warned the H7N9 virus was one of the most lethal that doctors and medical investigators had faced in recent years. Just as in 1918, the threat of a pandemic is real.

As seen throughout history and most recently with the 2009 H1N1 virus, a pandemic threat can impact all aspects of society and its economy. It creates uncertainty and breeds fear. A pandemic’s geographic target, demographic impacts, rate of occurrence, and number of fatalities vary with each strain. However, proactive measures, such as preparedness, can diminish general uncertainties and allows for an established plan to counteract specific threats. In the event that a health crisis emerges, pandemic and business continuity plans can work in conjunction to maximum the potential of continuity of operations. The World Health Organization (WHO) continues to emphasize the need for preparedness measures in regards to pandemic planning.

In 2012, WHO published an article entitled “Cost–Effectiveness Analysis of Pandemic Influenza Preparedness: What’s Missing?”. The article concluded that impoverished countries, non-pharmaceutical interventions, health system capacity, and pandemic uncertainty are the trigger elements for lack of pandemic preparedness. The paper continues to say “as the control of communicable disease progresses, preparedness measures for epidemic events become increasingly important because the decreased burden of communicable disease increases the number of susceptible individuals and hence the risk outbreaks.” Simply stated, pandemic preparedness is essential for minimizing the spread of viral outbreaks.

Companies can contribute to minimizing the spread of a pandemic. By documenting response plan procedures and methods specific to a pandemic outbreak among the local population and/or the local workforce/contractors, companies can minimize disruption to normal operations and further limit the viral spread.

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.

As seen in 1918 and multiple times throughout history, global trade and interconnectivity have social and economic impacts. Despite the advantages of a globally connected world, a preparedness program should address the multiple threats that go hand-in-hand with interconnectivity dependencies, including the potential for a pandemic.

For a free download on Designing a Crisis Management Program, click the image belowTRP Corp - Emergency Response Planning Crisis Management

Tags: Resiliency, Emergency Preparedness, Business Risk, Response Plans, Pandemic Plan