Monday, May 4, 2009

Did the media go too far, too fast?

For three years the Senior Consultants at the Institute for Crisis Management have travelled from Halifax, NS to Sao Paulo, Brazil and coast to coast encouraging business leaders, executives, university and hospital administrators and heads of non-profits to plan for the next worldwide pandemic.

During those three years,the media has occasionally shown interest in a pandemic, and a couple of years ago one of the TV networks aired a made-for-TV movie about the "next" pandemic. Each time there was some media attention, a few more companies and organizations would decide to work on a pandemic plan. In between, nothing, nada, zip!

Then a little more than a week ago, people began to die in Mexico and the first cases were confirmed in the U.S. As of this writing (5-4-09) the Center for Disease Control reports 1,000 cases world-wide, including 286 in 36 states in the U.S., 727 cases in Mexico with a much reduced death rate of 26, compared to earlier reports that were much higher.

If you know me, you know I worked in newspaper, radio and TV news for 35 years before I joined the Institute for Crisis Management. The media has always had a difficult time putting news into perspective. Reporting on the latest flu outbreak and the possibility of a worldwide pandemic has been no different.

After a breathless week of pandemic coverage, don't be surprised if the coverage almost disappears. If the "death toll" drops or the media can't find any heart-tugging stories about families torn by "swine flu" then coverage will wane.

HOWEVER, that doesn't mean you should forget about pandemic planning. There will be another worldwide pandemic sooner than later. And if you own or run a business, or almost any other type of organization, you need to be preparing more than just for the health and safety issues.

See the preceding post of April 27.

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