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Written by: Tracy L. Hall, MBCP
The recent Ebola crisis has been receiving a significant amount of attention in the United States. While much of the worry has been around what a few individuals did after contracting the disease, we want to take this time to focus on what businesses should be doing if any disease were to hit pandemic levels.

Similar to what accompanied the Swine Flu and Bird flu hysteria of recent years, we find that during times of elevated concern, many organizations focus on the technological challenges they could face during a pandemic, rather than the human capital considerations that will have the greatest impact on their ability to do business as usual.

The focus of pandemic preparedness planning is on people instead of facilities and technology. True pandemic planning means that an organization is ready to support its critical operations when some, or even most, of its labor workforce is unavailable.

The following are ways to ensure your organization’s pandemic plan is effective in the event you need to put it into action:

#1 – EDUCATION AND PREVENTION

One of the most important components of pandemic preparedness is ensuring that employees are educated on the facts and that the organization is prepared to enforce strategies for avoiding the spread of the disease that has infected the employee base. Proper hygiene and encouraging sick personnel to remain at home are at the top the list of prevention tactics and should be initiated during a potential pandemic outbreak.

#2 – CROSS TRAINING

Ensuring that business functions can be performed in the absence of essential personnel is necessary for the successful continuance of operations. Cross training processes protects against single points of failure in knowledge in the event that the only person trained to perform a task is unavailable.

#3 – REMOTE CAPABILITIES

Planning for personnel to work from home can be an option during a pandemic episode. However, it is important that this recovery solution is thoroughly tested to ensure its viability. A couple of important questions to ask when planning for a remote solution are:

  • Do users have the appropriate tools to work successfully from home?
  • Is there enough bandwidth to adequately support the number of remote users that may be necessary during different situations?

#4 – CRITICAL SUPPLIERS AND VENDORS

It is also important to remember that a pandemic outbreak could be widespread and not just affect a single business – third party providers that are depended on for goods and services could also be affected. Therefore, incorporating backup plans for key suppliers and vendors must be a part of planning.

#5 – COMMUNICATION

If personnel cannot go onsite for long periods of time, does your organization have an effective plan in place to sustain ongoing communications to remote users? It is necessary to ensure that important information can be exchanged so employees are kept abreast of any developments or changes in requirements as the situation progresses.

Ensuring that your organization has incorporated these focus areas into its planning will help increase its preparedness to respond to a pandemic.

For more information about this topic, contact Tracy L. Hall, MBCP, IT Assurance Manager, at 413-726-6884 or thall@wolfandco.com