The five stages of pandemic response planning

Get free weekly news by e-mailCharlie Straker provides a practical checklist to help business continuity managers develop pandemic response plans.

In business continuity planning for pandemics there seems to be five distinct stages for plan development. Those planning their company or organisation’s response might want to use these five stages to help focus their plans. A key part of this planning is at Stage 4 - the development of a Pandemic Operating Regime.

The five stages of the pandemic planning are: -

1. Plan development stage
2. Monitoring stage
3. Pre-pandemic preparation stage
4. Pandemic stage
5. Post Pandemic stage

1. Plan development stage
This is the stage when plan for the pandemic takes place. This stage ends once pandemic preparation plans have been developed and verified through exercises.

The activities at this stage could include: -

a. Development of plans

b. Development of mitigation strategies for business processes

c. Developing the Pandemic Operating Regime

d. Plan the incident management structure and identifying the staff who will man the teams

e. Identification of tasks which staff could be cross-trained on and identification of the people who would need to be trained.

f. Developing the outline communications and communication plans

g. Development of policies of operation during the pandemic e.g. what activities have to be carried out, HR policies

h. Purchase items with long lead-time or likely to the in short supply during a pandemic e.g. hygiene items, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), antivirals

i. Exercising the plans

2. Monitoring stage
This stage could potentially last for several years.

The activities at this stage could include: -

a. Avian flu activity monitored and then communicated to appropriate personnel throughout the organisation

b. Plans periodically updated or triggered by an increase in risk

c. Periodic exercises

3. Pre-pandemic preparation stage
The start of this stage would be triggered by the declaring of WHO Stage 5 and would be in response to the event of ‘flu which was spreading outside the UK (or your country) and is unlikely to be contained. This would lead to a period of frenetic activity geared around making sure the organisation was ready for the impending pandemic. For the UK this stage may last about 3 weeks.

This stage may be controlled through the normal organisations operating structures or be controlled by the ‘Pandemic stage’ incident management structure. Clear plans will have to be in place to see who makes the decision to go from stage 2 to stage 3 and how all the organisation personnel are informed of this decision.

The activities at this stage could include: -

a. Detailed planning for the dispersal of staff. Which staff members are going to go to each pre-planned location?

b. Staff designated as deputy or ‘deputy’s deputy’ to key roles within the organisation

c. Additional training of staff in incident management where required and not done as part of stage 1 and 2

d. Implementation of the plans for staff working from home e.g. purchase of PCs / laptops, implementation of extra dial-ins / VPN

e. Rehearsals of plans or mitigation measures e.g. quarantining offices, hygiene measures

f. Communication starts / continues with staff

g. Staff begin the shedding of work to concentrate on their core functions or mission critical activities

h. Implementation of the plan to carry out skill refresher / cross team training to ensure that there is a ‘pool’ of people who can carry out tasks

i. Detailed planning for changes in shift patterns e.g. moving from 8 to 12 hours shifts

j. Purchasing of supplies such as hygiene supplies, PPE and other widely available items

4. Pandemic stage
‘Flu entering your organisation’s home country would trigger this stage. There would be the inevitability that sooner or later this would spread throughout the whole of the country and affect the organisation’s staff. As with stage 3 there would have to be clear procedures for the declaration of this stage being implemented and communicated to staff.

During this stage the organisation will have to be operated in a different way to normal, with different roles, ways of doing things and way of managing the organisation. This should be declared the Pandemic Operating Regime so that it is very clear to all within the organisation that the business is being operated in a different way. This would be similar to the Millennium Operating Regimes implicated during the millennium. It is likely that during this stage, if not done already at the Pre-pandemic preparation stage, that the organisation’s business incident management structure will be used to manage the incident.

During this stage the incident management structure will have to dynamically manage the incident as the situation develops. The government may introduce measures or events occur which have not been planned for and so the incident management structure will have to be robust and be able to quickly react to situation changes.

The activities at this stage could include: -

a. Implementation of the Pandemic Operating Regime

b. Staff move to their new location -either split across offices, new sites or home working

c. Full staff communication continues throughout the stage

d. Help lines manned

e. Monitoring is carried out, organisation wide, on a daily basis to ascertain the numbers of staff available. Numbers are then modelled to try and predict future unavailability of staff

f. Full incident management structure in place - reserves in place if main members are unavailable

g. Hygiene regimes implemented

h. Special HR rules come into force e.g. extra time off for looking after family member, sickness procedures altered

i. PPE used by those who need it e.g. customer facing staff, staff entering customer’s homes

j. Mitigation measures implemented e.g. travel and meetings bans

5. Post-Pandemic stage. This stage takes place after the first wave is over and in preparation of a second and subsequent waves.

The activities at this stage could include: -

a. Conduct ‘wash-ups’

b. Write learning points into plans

c. Disseminate new procedures and plans

d. Additional training where required

The level of planning should then revert to the monitoring stage, awaiting a probable second wave. By the time a second wave arrives there is a strong possibility that a vaccine may be in place, which could mitigate many of the impacts of the pandemic.

Unlike many other incidents there should be some preparation time to allow the detailed planning and implementation of the mitigation measures before the pandemic arrives. The inclusion of a Pre-pandemic preparation stage in the organisation’s plans, will allow the organisation to carry out the preparation for the pandemic without going to the full implementation of the plan at stage

The introduction of a Pandemic Operating Regime will ensure that all involved in the response are aware of the different operating regime to be practised while the pandemic is actually taking place.

Charlie Straker is a consultant with Plan –contact him at

The author would welcome any comments on this article.

Date: 16th Dec 2005 • Region: UK/World Type: Article •Topic: BC general
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