Avian Flu Precautions
By Barbara B. Oliver
Business Continuity Plan
An infectious disease that causes a “pandemic” will, by definition, occur over a wide geographic area and affect an exceptionally high proportion of the population. People may not show up to work because they are ill, because they fear becoming ill or because they are taking care of ill family members. A reduction in your available workforce requires business continuity planning. This plan focuses only on the mission-critical tasks, the steps required to fulfill them and who can do the jobs. The plan is put into effect regardless of the crisis that causes it. There are some variables that need to be addressed:
- How do you cross train your staff?
- What do you do if your current location is not usable (fire, flood, earthquake, used as a hospital, etc.)?
- What do you do if the entire community or county is affected?
Look at it more personally. If you have a staff of 10 and the only person who shows up is the bookkeeper, what does that person need to do to deliver mission-critical services? If your answer is nothing; rethink your plan. Is there another nonprofit that you could team up with in times of crisis? Is there a pool of retirees or workers from other industries that you could call on for help? How many people would you need at minimum to provide services? How would you structure tasks? How would you contact people? Business continuity planning is worth the time and effort. You will learn a lot about your organization that will be useful on days when you are short staffed for any reason.
“The fear of the disease or being exposed is greater than the statistical odds are,” says Gary Niekerk, manager of corporate responsibility at Intel, in May 2006, HR Magazine. The staff is reading and listening to the same news stories as you. They, too, are concerned for their health and the health of their families. Part of the success of your policies is educating employees and volunteers what to expect and how to proceed. Talking up your policies to your staff now will help them keep their minds on their jobs when the crisis hits.
- Consider offering tools and resources to help their families plan for an emergency.
- Give staff honest information about health risks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Trust for America’s Health, American Society for Microbiology and the World Health Association agree that the world is overdue for an influenza pandemic, whether it’s caused by the avian flu virus, H5N1 or another strain. Influenza pandemics come in waves lasting from four to 12 weeks. Experts predict medical shortages, prolonged government service disruptions, a run on essential goods and services, and power outages and brown outs.
- Avian Influenza
- Business Continuity Planning, free online course
- Cover Your Cough, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, printable formats available as a flyer or poster in English, Spanish
- Guidance for Protecting Workers Against Avian Flu, OSHA
- Interim Recommendations for Infection Control in Health-Care Facilities Caring for Patients with Known or Suspected Avian Influenza, CDC
- Pandemic Flu Planning Checklist for Individuals and Families
- Stopping the Spread of Disease at Work, CDC
- Vital Signs: Anticipating, Preventing and Surviving a Crisis in a Nonprofit, Nonprofit Risk Management Center