Pandemic Planning

Experience

Pandemic PlanningCharlie Maclean-Bristol, while working as Business Continuity Manager for a major utility, carried out a 6-month project to prepare pandemic plans. This included identifying critical activities and ensuring that there was sufficient staff trained and available to carry them out. It also looked at the HR and management issues and ensured that the internal procedures were in place for minimising internal disruption and safeguarding staff. Charlie developed a programme of identifying key suppliers and checking that they also had pandemic plans in place. Charlie also managed a major project to carry out pandemic planning across the whole of NHS Tayside. This included managing a team of consultants developing the plans, and developing templates and the documentation used during the project.

PlanB is helping a number of their clients develop their pandemic plans.

What can you do to protect your organisations?

There are three simple steps organisation can take to protect their organisation. These are:-

1. Understand – the affect of a pandemic on your organisation
Organisations need to understand the affect of a pandemic on their business model. Some businesses may not be able to operate during a pandemic due to large gatherings being banned such as nightclubs, pop concerts, festivals and cinemas. Other organisations may benefit such as organisations which sell over the web or by telephone. Other businesses may have their business model altered by the pandemic; supermarkets may still sell the same amount of food but they may see a rise in home deliveries and a downturn in actual customers in their supermarkets. If people are going to go on holidays they may choose the UK as a destination rather than foreign holidays, and self catering rather than hotels. Those working in the public sector or those working in charities with vulnerable people are likely to see their work load go up and they have the problem of trying to protect their staff from the disease, with less staff working while at the same time trying to deliver the same level of service.

Organisations should then look at the affect of a pandemic on the operation of their business. If sales are conducted face to face then alternative methods should be considered; where possible to reduce human contact by using alternative methods such as the telephone or the internet. Who during a pandemic wants to see a door to door salesperson or a sales representative? Can overseas sales trips or contract negotiations be conducted by video conferencing rather than by travel?

Additionally your supply chain must be considered. Will the flow of raw materials, components or finished goods be affected by bans on crossing borders? Or will the transport infrastructure be majorly affected by a lack of staff thus delaying goods? You may need to trace your supplies back to the raw materials to identify points of vulnerability in your supply chain. Where you buy in outsourced services you must consider the effect of those services being reduced or the company being unable to deliver the service. What is the effect of the loss of security staff or an outsourced facilities management service?

Staff are one of your key assets. The government has in their planning issued guidance on the likely numbers of people being affected. Businesses should consider how they will operate if 25% – 35% of their staff are sick off work for 5-8 days. They may also need to plan for staff to be off for 14 days as government may introduce legislation to allow for staff to self certify themselves ill for up to 14 days. Organisations should identify their critical activities and then ensure that they have sufficient staff to carry them out.

2. Mitigate – the impact of the pandemic
Once the possible effects of a pandemic on the organisation has been identified, mitigation measures should be either put in place immediately or be planned for. These could vary from stockpiling essential supplies which normally would arrive ‘just in time’ to developing infection control measures which could be implemented at short notice within the work place. New ways of working could be considered. These for example could include increased possibilities in working from home to avoid workplace infection. The necessary procedures, new ways of working, and infrastructure would need to be developed. Infrastructure could include ability to reroute telephone calls, purchase of laptops to allow home working and expansion of VPN capacity to allow staff to access applications, document and their e-mail remotely. Some of these measures have a lead time and so a decision has to be made when to start implementing them.

3. Plan for the actions to be taken during the pandemic
The final stage is to plan for a pandemic and for the actions to be carried out as the pandemic escalates. For all emergencies communication is vital and a pandemic communications plan should be prepared in advance. A communications plan should deal with various questions: who are the different audiences for the communications (staff, suppliers, customers, stakeholders etc)? What channels will be used to communicate with them? Who will develop the communications and who will ‘sign them off’? Human resources issues should be considered and different scenarios discussed. What is the company view if a member of staff refuses to come to work as they consider it too dangerous? Or if staff members have to stay at home to look after a sick spouse or relative, will they get paid or not? This policy should also include what to do if there is a case in the workplace. The organisation view should be documented and then signed off by senior managers. An incident management plan should also be developed which contains details of all the measures the company will take as the situation escalates. The plan should also include an incident management team; who is on the team and how will decisions be taken? Once a pandemic affects the organisation, implementation of the plan, carrying out of the mitigation actions, appropriate communications and good decision making will go a long way to ensuring the organisations survival.

What can PlanB do to help your organisation?

PlanB has considerable experience in pandemic planning and can help your organisation take steps to prepare for the pandemic. PlanB can also offer a day or half day in house pandemic training for your organisation.

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