This post attempts to gather some resources and information for businesses to make a pandemic preparedness plan. Every business will be a bit different – what applies to a city government will not be the same for a family run espresso bar. In the case of a pandemic, you will need to deal with the possibility of quarantined employees and customers, protecting the health of employees against the possibility of infectious customers, dealing with travel restrictions, possible death of key employees, communication difficulties, and much more. It’s best to at least have an idea of what sorts of problems your business may face before it actually faces them. While the current coronavirus is not epidemic in the US as of yet, you can learn a lot about business effects just by paying attention to what is happening in China and elsewhere.
As part of the planning process you need to:
- identify core services, and what is needed to maintain the supply chain
- identify staffing arrangements, such as telecommuting, succession planning and cross-skilling
- protect the health of staff
- develop a communications strategy for employees, customers and suppliers
- consider financial implications, such as cash flow, cost increases and insurance
- identify contingency plans for the unexpected
- schedule how the plan will be tested and updated.
AlertFind: Pandemic Planning Templates – several templates linked at this website
EDEN: A Guide to Preparing a Business Disaster Plan For Pandemic (pdf) – a powerpoint overview
Employers Need to Prepare Now
Prudent employers will assemble a pandemic team and plan if they have not done so already. The pandemic team should develop a coordinated and efficient pandemic response plan so that the needed public health information is gathered and transmitted; the communications to managers and employees about operations, cleaning protocols, leave and benefits is consistent and effective; and anticipated disruptions managed effectively while avoiding litigation risks and panic within the workplace.
The pandemic plan should provide pre-established means of communication and planning including:
- Operational alternatives to shift production to unaffected areas and mitigate disruptions from quarantines and high absenteeism;
- Education of employees on basic health precautions at work and at home, not reporting to work when sick or exposed, leaving work promptly when symptoms occur, and mechanisms for tracking who is ready to return to work or obtaining employee releases to return to work;
- Implementing increased prevention and transmission precautions by increased cleaning protocols, disposal of employee tissues and cleaning up after sick employees;
- Selection of safety equipment for key personnel possibly including masks, gloves and cleaning supplies and equipment, and the educational requirements for its application, use, removal, and disposal;
- Redesign of procedures and operations to limit the face to face interactions of employees in group meetings, lines at time clock, cafeteria, elevators, etc.
- Education of management concerning employee communications, transmitting self-disclosed infection information from employees, sending employees home who want to stay at work, and communicating with employees too scared to report.
- Develop and communicate travel restrictions to any known infected areas.
- Specific assignments for an emergency response team should include the following in the event that further response is necessary:
- coordinating with federal, state and local authorities in control of public health and safety in case of quarantines and inoculation efforts;
- developing and implementing evacuation procedures if they become necessary;
- preparing facility shutdown check-lists;
- identifying key personnel whose presence is important to continue vital company functions; and
- determining methods for communicating effectively with employees.