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The Swine Flu Panic: Were You Ready?

Posted by Shivi Kakar

May 5, 2009 9:19:53 AM

Pandemic Response Planning for Businesses

Dale Wilson - CIH, LEED AP

swine-fluThe Swine Flu (H1N1 influenza A) outbreak has created a firestorm of media coverage, but the news focus has concentrated mostly on the possible effects on families, schools, hospitals and communities. All kinds of advice has been released to the public about precautions-with little emphasis on the business community. Illnesses can spread through an office complex as quickly as anywhere else. Businesses need to consider what appropriate emergency response actions must be in place to ensure business continuity should a full fledged pandemic be declared.

Prior to swine flu, the need for facilities to develop and maintain current emergency response and continuity plans has been highlighted by numerous events –both man-made and naturally occurring–such as terrorist attacks, anthrax in the mail, the Bopal chemical release in India, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, civil unrest, blackouts, earthquakes, wildfires, and of course, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Unlike the events listed above, however, which tend to affect localized areas, a pandemic flu outbreak has the potential to spread - reaching distant areas- and therefore cause the most widespread disruption to our daily lives. A good Emergency Response and Business Contingency Plan needs to consider not only the direct impacts on business, but the potential impact on employees and their families, suppliers, and customers.

Hopefully, if you are in charge of your companies Emergency Response and Contingency Planning, you can easily pull your current plans off the shelf to review their content and start preparing for any eventuality. If you are not at that point, you really need to begin the process immediately to minimize potential consequences. There are a number of resources available on the internet. I have pulled together the best of the available resources.

From the Building and Owners Management Association (BOMA) of Canada:

From the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) Foundation

While these documents are geared to commercial buildings and facilities management, they can be adapted to fit most businesses. The IFMA Foundation document provides a greater level of detail on continuity planning and really may be beneficial to evaluating business continuity for scenarios other than pandemic flu, as it has sections on maintaining infrastructure, supply chain management, etc.

Finally, I will mention which is one of US government’s websites devoted to pandemic flu response. There is information and checklists available for business as well as information for individuals. As any business is dependent on their employees to function, it is advisable to distribute some of the individual and family information to employees- who may not be absent due to their own illness, but to care for a sick family member instead. Keeping their entire family well is in your best interest.

Topics: health and safety, H&S Training, Compliance, Swine Flu

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