Planning for a Pandemic should be Contagious

When we get sick, are you the type of person who rushes right to the doctor for treatment or would you try your home remedies first?  Whether you chose to increase your vitamin C intake, drink plenty of fluids, rest and take over the counter medications, or receive a prescribed antibiotic, the hope is that you were able to have a speedy recovery.  More importantly, hopefully you were able to contain the cold and not spread it to family and friends.   Regardless of the situation, a decision had to be made to get medical attention or not, while also taking into consideration your family and their health.  The same should be considered when planning for a pandemic type situation at your company.

In 2018, many companies gawk at the idea of still planning for the big “pandemic” outbreak; however, take into consideration that it could take weeks if not months for the Public Health Department along with Center for Disease Control (CDC) to identify a public health emergency. Emerging viruses or new global pathogens are difficult to assess due to several factors: no diagnostic tests exist, treatment/prevention may not be available, poor understanding of transmission and many locations could be affected at the same time causing resources to be scarce.  And, after identification, it could take several months to develop antibiotics to treat the infectious disease. In the meantime, your organization will see a degradation of services provided working with limited staff.

Now that the number of cases related to influenza is decreasing in March, your planning activities and preparation should increase and mature.  As part of your planning, what are you prepared to do if faced with a “pandemic” situation in your workplace?  Here are some factors to consider within your plan:

  1. Are there any legal implications with monitoring the health of employees such as taking temperatures?
  2. Will there need to be adjustments HR policies related to sick leave and time off?
  3. What means of communication are you going to leverage internally and externally?
  4. What are your escalation procedures to engage local government agencies such as the Public Health Department?
  5. Do you allow employees to work from home and have enough remote access available (ex. VPN)?
  6. Do you have available space for social distancing?
  7. Are potential vendors that can assist with sanitizing workspace (outside of normal janitorial services) identified?
  8. Have you defined the minimum number of staff required to perform critical business processes and started cross training where necessary?

Partnering with the local city Department of Public Health (DPH), who work to prevent, control and report on diseases and conditions that are contagious and/or affect the public’s health, is imperative to get ahead of the outbreak and safeguard your employees.  The DPH also help people to prepare for public health emergencies and educate the community about how to stay safe and healthy.  Also, in many communities the DPH is offering Points of Dispensing (PODs) which are locations pre-registered and identified that can be utilized for distributing medications or vaccines to many people in the event of a public health emergency.  Now what can you do to further improve your plans?