A major pandemic checklist and assessment matrix

Get free weekly news by e-mailWhat factors should be considered when developing a business continuity plan for pandemic scenarios? Ian Rogers offers some useful checklist style advice.

Objectives of a major illness outbreak plan:

• Reduce the risk of: Loss of services; Loss of market share and reputation; Major loss of revenue ; Adverse public image ; Legal/Regulatory/Contractual penalties
• Provides clarity
• Clear understanding of risks
• Internally endorsed fiscal, service and operational impacts
• Maximum tolerable service level with a reduced workforce
• Group consensus on departmental requirements and required support staff
• And most importantly, protect the company’s greatest asset………the staff.

Considerations when creating the major illness outbreak plan:

• How easy is it to devise a strategy to help protect staff in the event that a pandemic starts to spread

• Can we create a "clean team(s)" for business continuity purposes

• Review the staffing requirements and the dependencies you have on outside vendors. They will have the same issues in supporting your operations. This includes all non-health services (police, fire etc), the military, other essential services (eg fuel supply, food production and distribution, transport), prisons, education and businesses

• During the SARS outbreak, Canadian companies could not invoke their remote office space as the provider refused access as their building and infrastructure were sound. Their contract did not cover communicative disease or building quarantine scenarios.

• What will the company do if public health officials start closing down local governments and schools as a quarantine precaution? Would you allow a key member of staff to bring their child/children into work

• Is it possible to arrange a company/department incentive for immunization?

• If transportation is affected is it possible to use coaches/minibuses to transport the “clean teams” .

• The use of remote means of working - who can work from home effectively and who authorises this? How will the sudden increase in remote access to computer networks be managed? Do you need to prepare CD-Roms with instructions for self-installation at home? Do you have the hardware available to provide this ?

• Will re-deployed staff need additional security checks or additional rights/privileges ?

Starting point- mitigate the risks:

• General support procedures should help ensure that the teams are able to function without key support individuals. These need to be properly documented and stored in an easily accessible location – i.e. from multiple office locations & home.

• 2nd and 3rd line support teams should be identified. Those with skills sets suitable for a “reservist” role within the front line support teams should be identified.

• Staff should be brought in on a rolling basis – some working from home, and some in the office – such as the SARs epidemics in the Far East. This should be pre-planned within each team, and infrastructure checks made to ensure that it could work.

• Implement a change freeze over the critical portion of the infection, 6 – 12 weeks into the government identification of an infection. This would avoid causing unnecessary changes that may impact the production environment adversely when critical staff may not be available.

• Air circulation. Any plans to isolate heating/cooling systems in various areas to avoid cross contamination of areas should be investigated. It would also be prudent to check with facilities to see if the air-conditioning has an adequate filtration system.

• Security should be able to lock down areas to avoid personnel contact where possible.

• Secondary data centre operations area should be brought online and manned – potentially run concurrent operations shifts alternating between sites – no physical handover, avoiding cross-infection.

• Testing remote working by ensuring that teams, or parts of teams work from home on a regular basis. This would prove that in principle the functions would not be lost if the process was invoked.

• Security and Facilities should prove in principle that areas can be contained.

• A test of the declaration should be performed with the principles fully involved. This would be, of course, a paper exercise carried out with HR.

• Travel - reduce levels of business travel and increase video-conferencing / tele-conferencing; identify restricted countries and understand/communicate local measures to adhere to; precautionary quarantine measures required to/from countries; review how travel is monitored including that for personal travel and improve tracking if necessary.

• Cleaning and facilities management - facilities management to increase levels of cleaning in washrooms/lifts/help desks and call centres. (1 part bleach to 8 parts water on all surfaces)

• Stockpile supplies to include N-95 masks, nitrile gloves and antiseptic wipes- Educate employees about the flu, epidemics and pandemics and good health practices to mitigate spreading infections

• Cross training may be required to cover a potential skills shortage in any area

• Does the company need advance approval to use staff who don’t have the correct certification/training ? If so, can this be done in advance once potential candidates have been identified ?

• Develop a list of required resource people and equipment.

• The management of ‘split-site’ moves - identify who should authorise the split of high priority or high risk departments or people between two locations and how this will be administered, do you perform split-site moves for critical headcounts only, or more?

Activation of the plan : Anticipation and trigger points
A bit like setting a ‘stop loss’ order on shareholdings, you should understand your risk appetite and the time at which you should activate the major illness plan to take steps to contain the incident. Of course it is not quite so easy to identify trigger points in the case of unknown diseases but it is important that all members of recovery functions or committees understand that their role as guardians of the overall recovery process is not just restricted to being reactive but is also anticipatory.

Download a supporting Excel spreadsheet
Includes the following tabs: Criticality Assessment Matrix; Staffing Allocations

Date: 4th Nov 2005 •Region: UK/World •Type: Article •Topic: BC plan development
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