Did your Pandemic Plan Perform?

Did your Pandemic Business Plan Perform

Worldwide health crises like the COVID-19 global pandemic, SARS in 2003 and the avian flu of 2008 are bleak reminders of how governments, social institutions and economies can succumb to biological forces beyond human control. The breakdown in the socio-political and economic fabric of affected nations — both developed and developing — reveal how lack of foresight and inadequate preparation can result in dire consequences for all, regardless of gender, ethnicity, creed and social class.

The worldwide economic landscape built on global interdependence has also proven quite fragile in the face of lesser-known biological threats. And even as businesses learned the hard way — back in 2003 — that being ill-prepared for an outbreak is tantamount to major losses or even closure, simply planning for a pandemic is not sufficient to be adequately prepared for new threats.

The Pandemic Business Plan – Essential Attributes

A positive development in business practices after SARS was the advice for businesses to prepare a pandemic business plan designed to prevent pandemic influenza from ever happening again and ensuring the protection of both employees and companies during such events. Companies were tasked to come up with contingency plans to address possible pandemic influenza scenarios based on government checklists and guidelines.

The Pandemic Business Plan has four essential attributes:

  • Communications program: Having a communications plan in place ensures messages and information continue to be disseminated efficiently even when there is no access to workplaces. This includes transparency to reduce investor panic, as well as constant coordination with government units.
  • Workforce flexibility: The importance of an agile workforce in the face of unusually challenging circumstances will help to maintain operations even when employees are required to stay at home. This is why even during normal operations, employees need to undergo training in work-from-home (WFH) and other flexible work setups.
  • Business continuity: Companies need to prepare for scenarios where people, supplies and raw materials are running short. They need to know how much raw materials they need to store to continue being operational for a fixed number of weeks or months. This can also mean scaling down production and providing only essential services.
  • Workplace safety: Businesses need to identify administrative and engineering controls that’ll be implemented in the event of a disease outbreak. Business pandemic planning must also include safety protocols designed to arrest or prevent disease transmission in the workplace.

However, a pandemic business plan may only be as good as the time it was created as the possibility of new threats cropping up is always present.

Yearly Reviews Are Not Optional

Recording lessons learned every time a natural disaster or pandemic occurs is essential. These need to be incorporated in yearly pandemic business plan reviews. But why the need for reviews?

Yearly reviews are essential to see whether there are any new factors or scenarios not considered in the current business pandemic plan. This can happen if an incident takes place and new threats are exposed. By reviewing and critiquing the current plan, you have a chance at covering the bases and addressing all possible contingencies. After careful analysis, you may discover loopholes or inefficiencies which you now have the opportunity to address.

Preparing for a crisis is an ongoing exercise and should always involve yearly assessments to ensure that your pandemic business plan remains effective and current.

Emory Vandiver

Emory Vandiver is the Vice President of Business Operations and a Partner at Interactive Security, where he is responsible for executing the company's strategy as a premier IT Security and Compliance provider. For over 20 years Emory has worked for leading enterprises across a diverse cross section of the information technology industry. His professional passion lies in understanding client business goals, challenging the status quo and leveraging technology-based solutions to maximize client performance. He strives to bring unique insight and value to his clients' businesses, along with a superior customer experience.