In the event of pandemic influenza, businesses will play a key role in protecting employees' health and safety as well as limiting the negative impact to the economy and society. Planning for pandemic influenza is critical. Companies that provide critical infrastructure services, such as power, food, and telecommunications, as well as healthcare providers, also have a special responsibility to plan for continued operation in a crisis. As with any catastrophe, having a contingency plan is essential.
What is a Pandemic?
A pandemic is the introduction into the environment of a novel virus that infects people but to which they have virtually no immunity. This means that there will be large numbers of people sick and possibly dying. In an influenza pandemic, the virus is highly contagious and travels from person to person very quickly. People can also transmit it before they feel ill.
Differences Today Versus 1918
The last major pandemic was in 1918. The world has changed considerably since then. Most people in 1918 still got most of their food from their own farm or garden, most people called the town doctor who made house calls or took care of their families at home, and women did not work outside the home. We also live in a faster paced world, with air travel making the entire world accessible in a day or two. Our economy is also very dependent on trade and commerce. These differences and many more are why it is imperative that businesses plan for a possible pandemic.
Some Things to Consider When Planning
NH businesses and commerce organizations are encouraged to work with local health and public officials when planning for a possible pandemic. Businesses should take some things into consideration when developing a pandemic plan:
- Identify a planning team
- Decide which jobs are vital to business operation
- Train workers to do more than one job
- Do succession planning
- Work to enable employees to telecommute
- Plan for lack of power for at least several days
- Make alternate plans for obtaining supplies
- Plan for increases in demand for your products or services
- Consider impact on domestic and international travel
- Establish an emergency communications plan
- Designate an emergency management team
- Test your plan and make revisions on a regular basis
- Plan for up to 40% absenteeism
- Implement changes in social behaviors, such as shaking hands, having face-to-face meetings, etc.
- Encourage employees to receive an annual flu shot
- Evaluate employee access to mental health services
- Review employee benefits, compensation and sick leave policies
- Educate your employees about your plans and about influenza