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Dr. Jim Kennedy provides a detailed checklist of items that organizations need to consider to sense-check existing pandemic plans, or to inform planning processes which may be underway.

In the last few days I have responded to various questions about what companies should do to prepare for a possible COVID-19 pandemic which has led me to write this article. It is a little late if a pandemic plan is not already in place, but then that is always a challenge for contingency planners world-wide!

I have tried in this article to provide some cogent thoughts on what the various business industry segments should consider in business continuity planning for such an event now that it is knocking at our doors. The profession of business continuity planners is generally to plan ahead for potential events and to advise management: I hope that a majority of businesses have done that planning, but if not I hope to provide suggestions on how to proceed. It is the obligation of business leaders to perform due diligence and exercise due care in running its operations even during trying times such as a pandemic.

I have highlighted areas of concern that need to be reviewed in regards to a pandemic type of incident. The list is by all means not all-inclusive, but represents areas that have been raised as concerns by my clients and fellow colleagues.

My sincere desire is that these highlighted areas will stimulate action by companies small, medium and large so that they can properly prepare for the possibility of COVID-19 impacting their operations.


  • Develop or revise your crisis management plan so that considerations about a pandemic are immediately made.
  • Develop a plan for an alternative workforce in the event that a large portion of the usual workforce is impacted by a pandemic. Estimates are for potential absenteeism rates are high and could range from 10 to 25 percent, with larger rates in metropolitan areas.
  • Plan on taking special precautions to assess the health of the workforce and potentially plan to turn back infected workers who report for work.
  • Plan on how to deal with the emotional impact of such events as death and potential of death on the individual’s family as well as the workforce in general.
  • Companies should plan for reduced production or service delivery based on reductions of customer demand, labor force, raw material supply or energy resources needed for operations.
  • Companies should entertain plans to work cooperatively with other companies to maintain critical business services and ventures in the event that this is necessary.
  • Develop contingency plans for raw material and supply stockpiling as these resources may be impacted by a pandemic, especially those that are imported or rely on imported raw materials for their production.

Policy revision

Consider immediately consider changes to policies:

  • defining absenteeism;
  • on teleworking or telecommuting;
  • travel policies (attempt to use teleconference and videoconferencing wherever possible);
  • on ‘use of videoconferencing’;
  • to allow flexible work hours and alternate workplace.

Use of technology


  • Use of tele or videoconferencing instead of face-to-face meetings;
  • Increasing capacity of remote access facilities;
  • Increasing trunk capacity of telephone systems to accommodate increase use of teleconferencing and telephone meetings Increasing the capacity of Internet connectivity;
  • Improved information security protection due to increased technology use;
  • Increased use of VoIP or cellular phones to allow for management, sales and service colleagues to be accessible wherever they are located.

Workforce (changing the way you do business)

  • Develop and deliver internal communications instructing the workforce on dealing with proper reactions to a pandemic.
  • Hospitals and healthcare facilities will be severely overwhelmed and probably have insufficient resources to treat patient load, company should be prepared to offer internal medical assistance to its workers or others in the event of a pandemic. This includes stocking of face masks and anti-bacterial and anti-viral hand washing liquids in restrooms.
  • Review insurance coverage specifically reviewing coverage in regard to the impact of a pandemic on business operations and employee health.
  • In the event of food, medicine, and other shortages company should be prepared to provide aid to both to employees and to customers.
  • Identify and train back-up staff for key positions in the event that key personnel are impacted by a pandemic.
  • Consider in-house day care facilities.

Raw material supply

  • Plan on the assumption that shortages will take place.
  • Make sure that if raw materials are unavailable for some reason related to a pandemic, there are sufficient surge capacities to allow for continued production.
  • Make sure that alternative sources are identified for critical domestic and imported raw materials?
  • Make sure that adequate maintenance and repair supplies are obtained, as lead times to acquire such materials could be severely impacted by the pandemic.

Transportation services

  • A pandemic will cause restrictions in the movement of raw materials and products, or shortages of fuel may occur; make sure, therefore, that contingency plans are in place to provide adequate movement of product to sustain business operations.
  • Make sure that waste management systems are designed for surge capacities in the event that movement and processing of wastes is disrupted.
  • Plan for alternate transportation sources.
  • Plan for providing transportation for critical workers to and from work locations.


  • Prepare for and communicate the communication channels that the company will utilize to keep employees, customers, and suppliers informed as to company activities during the pandemic.
  • Develop pre-planned media statements for use when needed.
  • Have contingency statements prepared for delivery to the workforce.
  • Early communications should be made to suppliers and customers to set expectations.
  • Alternate communications channels need to be developed in case normal communication channels become unreliable or overloaded.


  • Anticipate what customers will expect in terms of product or service demand, and delivery during the pandemic.
  • Determine what product or services are likely to be impacted the greatest by the pandemic.
  • Develop a prioritization for product and service delivery for customers if production or service delivery is adversely impacted.
  • Communicate any changes to lead times for notification to the customer if the capability to provide the goods or services significantly reduces.

I am sure that there are many more things to be considered. I hope that I have stimulated thought and a need for further inquiry and dialogue between contingency planners and business leaders. We need to prepare; let’s not wait too long or before it is too late.

The author

Dr. Jim Kennedy is an industry recognized business continuity expert having served as a Principal Consultant for Alcatel-Lucent’s Professional Services Security Practice. Dr. Kennedy has over 30 years’ experience in the business continuity and disaster recovery fields and holds numerous certifications in network engineering, security and business continuity. He has lectured widely on pandemic planning and has developed during his career more than 30 corporate/government recovery plans, planned or participated in more than 100 BC/DR plan tests, helped to coordinate three actual recovery operations, and has co-authored three books and published over 100 articles. Contact:

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