Monday, April 27, 2009

Still Avoiding Planning for a Pandemic?

In two days the World Health Organization has raised the worldwide pandemic alert level twice as the infection rate spreads to seven countries, after apparently starting in Mexico. WHO declared a Level 5, which means it believes a global outbreak of the disease is imminent. More than 150 people have died in Mexico and an infant from Mexico died in Texas this week. Another 2,400 have been sicken in Mexico alone.

Swine flu is a form of a potential pandemic flu and the first two Americans to die in the 1918 pandemic were Kansas farm brothers, drafted for WW I, and victims of swine flu. That outbreak of influenza claimed an estimated 50 million lives around the world and 500,000 in the US alone.

Remember how many millions of dollars and countless hours of worry and preparation were spent in anticipation of the Y2K Bug?

Remember, nothing much went wrong? Did you ever go back and review what you did, what it cost and what it might have cost if you had not prepared?

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Centers for Disease Control are warning of a far greater threat facing the world, than Y2K. And like Y2K, there is not a lot executives, managers and leaders of corporations, small business and other organizations can do to prevent the possible pandemic disaster. But there is a lot they can do to prepare their organizations to avoid total business disaster.

In recent years, medical researchers determined that the pandemic flu usually comes in three waves. A relatively mild version in the spring. It will kill some, but mostly just make many people mildly ill. Then in the past, it disappeared after about two months, only to come back in the fall in full-deadly force, killing thousands and infecting millions of people.

The second wave lasts two to three months and then ends almost over-night. It then comes back the following spring in a very mild form, causing illness but almost no deaths.

While a few good companies and organizations have been preparing for a pandemic, the public and most business owners, executives and managers have turned a deaf ear to the threat.

But there is a great deal you can do to prepare, just in case, and without spending the kind of money that was spent on Y2K.

There are four key areas that you must consider:

1. Cash flow

2. Personnel Policies and issues

3. Legal Issues, i.e. contracts

4. How you are going to communicate with key audiences before, during and after the pandemic.

World Health Organization's Western Pacific regional director says the world is in "grave danger" and "overdue" for an influenza pandemic, since pandemics have occurred every 30 to 40 years and it's been nearly 40 years since the last one.

The normal functions of society have been disrupted in the past outbreaks of 1957 and 1968, but nothing like the world-wide impact of 1918 with workers too ill to work, others staying home out of fear, hospitals strained to meet the demand for care and basic essentials such as transportation, water, sanitation and power were threatened.

If history repeats itself, you have a little time to prepare your business, University, non-profit or almost any other type organization before the worst part of a pandemic strikes later this year.

Hospitals and police departments and other emergency services have been planning for a couple of years, but they have been concentrating on how they are going to "do their jobs" taking care of the sick, keeping cities safe, fighting fires. But, we've found most have failed to plan for keeping their own operations running. If 20-to-40 percent of their doctors, nurses, officers and command staff are out sick, how are they going to carry out the rest of their plan.

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