Friday, August 28, 2009

Most Pandemic Prone Victims -- Young Adults

When you are planning your staffing options for this fall's pandemic return, there is growing evidence that the most likely employee group to get really sick and die are the 20-30-40 year-olds, not the older managers and workers.

In recent years, researchers looking back at past pandemics have discovered that people in their 20s, 30s and 40s got sicker and an unexpectedly higher percentage of that age group died. That is not consistent with the impact the normal seasonal flu has.

And recent research reaffirms that earlier conclusion.

In a study by the European Center for Disease Prevention’s Eurosurveillance, researchers studied 574 swine flu-related deaths occurring in 28 countries to mid-July.

"51 percent of those deaths occurred in the age group of 20-to-49 year-olds," the researchers reported. Overall, the study found that about six people of every 1,000 infected, die from the virus, which is about two to three times the rate of seasonal flu, yet still far below the rate of the 1918 pandemic, so far.

The report noted that just 12 percent of those who died from the virus up to mid-July were aged 60 or older.

The earlier research concluded that the immune systems of 20-to-40 year-olds were at their peak and when the pandemic virus attacked their lungs in 1918, the immune system went into over-drive. The virus-fighting system could not tell the difference between flu cells and lung cells and attacked both. Autopsies found that many people suffocated from their own disintegrating lung tissue.

If, and its still a big if, this is going to be a 1918-type pandemic, you must include in your business pandemic planning how you will cope with 20-to-40 percent of your young employees and managers out sick and up to 2-percent of that number never returning to work.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Can the CEO Take a Controverisal Public Position?

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey has stirred up a stink, once again.

This time, he wrote an op-ed piece, published in The Wall Street Journal with the headline, "The Whole Foods Alternative to Obamacare." The company and Mackey have come under fire from some of its customers, who are sometimes described as liberal Democrats and who are now calling for a boycott, while criticizing the company and its founder on blogs and other on-line sites.

In 2007 he was caught using another name while criticizing competitors on-line.

Compare his op-ed piece to the General Manager of a Louisville, KY NBC affiliate TV station that took part in a public demonstration sponsored by the local Republican party against Obamacare. There were viewers and bloggers complaining they could no longer trust his news department to fairly cover that issue, now that they know the boss feels so strongly about one side of that issue.

A little history will help put this issue in perspective. From the very beginning of this country, publishers of newspapers and pamphleteers (today's bloggers and on-line writers) started their publishing ventures because they wanted a political voice in their community, region or colony. Those early publications were blatant supporters of one side of an issue over all other sides. Someone with an opposing point of view would start their own paper or distribute their on pamphlets.

Nothing has changed, much, except how fast a point-of-view can be posted and how far it can travel. If anything has changed, at all, its how readers, viewers and listeners don't care or don't pay attention, nor seek out a balanced point of view on important issues.

Do you think a CEO or business owner should speak out on controversial issues, even if it means he/she will driver customers or clients away? Is your response different for a publicly traded company as opposed to a privately owned business?

Monday, August 17, 2009

How concerned should today’s business owner, manager or executive be about websites, blogs and tweets?

For decades there were limits on slander and libel and a price to pay if someone wrote, said or broadcast something that was not true. And sometimes, the target of even truthful statements might try to exact a pound of flesh from someone who dared make their secret mistakes public.
The big difference today is not the libelous or slanderous statements, but how QUICKLY and FAR they can travel before you have a chance to act.
Gene Policinski is Executive Director of the First Amendment Center, and in an article for the Gannett News Service, he raised the concern that abuses of websites, blogs and tweets could trigger an over-reaction that would interfere with our First Amendment rights of free speech.
Having spent 35 years in the news business, I hold the First Amendment near and dear. And, eventually some politicians will try to use our newest forms of communication as a reason to clamp down on existing freedoms. We have to be ready to respond to those attempts with sound reason and good judgment.
In the meantime, organizations of all kinds must be vigilant and monitor what is being written and said about them on the internet, and have a plan to respond, in a timely way, with the right message and in the appropriate medium.
Policinski used the example of Madison Square Garden’s lawsuit against a website that speculated Radio City management was considering a halt to their annual Christmas Spectacular. MSG accused the website of defamation.
In Maryland, a website operator has been accused in a lawsuit of posting an unsubstantiated comment claiming a public official was a sexual predator.
And, a nursing student at the University of Louisville has been ordered reinstated to class by a federal court judge, after the Medical School kicked her out because they didn’t like what she wrote about her school experiences on her blog. The University generated significant negative media attention by its actions.
Domino’s Pizza was slow to react when two former employees posted an unflattering kitchen video. Other companies have responded well and some have not.
You don’t have to be next. Learn from the mistakes of others and decide now, what you will do and how you will do it.

Monday, August 10, 2009

It's Time to Get Ready for the Real Pandemic

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the H1N1 pandemic flu has spread to 168 countries and they have confirmed 168,000 human cases and 1,154 deaths, including 436 deaths in the United States.

However, WHO officials say most people, in most parts of the world do not get tested and they estimate millions are, or have been infected.

In the United States the virus has caused more than 80 outbreaks in camps in more than 40 states this summer and officials estimate more than 1 million Americans have already been infected.

According to Marc Lipsitch, a professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, "It's fair to say there will be tens of millions of illnesses and hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and tens of thousands of deaths. That's not atypical."

The greatest threat is to young people in their 20s, 30s and even early 40s. Research on the 1918 pandemic discovered that disproportionately more young people died than is the case in a normal fall flu outbreak. Researchers determined that people in that age range have their immune system at its lifetime peak. When the flu settled into their lungs their immune system went into high gear -- more aggressive than normal -- and the immune system could not tell the difference between flu cells and healthy cells and in many cases doctors say, immune systems did even more damage than the flu.

I don't want to sound like a broken record, but there is still time to address some of the key business issues before the pandemic gets worse.

To read more about what needs to be done for businesses, not-for-profits, higher education and healthcare services, go to:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Who Does A Crisis Consultant Call When He Has a Crisis?

A freak storm caught us by surprise Tuesday morning. Who would ever have worried about flood damage on the 14th floor of an office building. But when this crisis consultant walked in the front door of his suite of offices he ran into a mini Niagara Falls.

First he ripped off his raincoat and covered his monitor and computer. Then he started dragging water-soaked files and work documents to another office in the company's suite.

Then he went next door to his Administrative Assistant's office to check on her computers and files.

All the while water logged ceiling tiles were buckling and crashing to the floor, as water streamed down from the law offices above, and water rose on the carpet.

Next, he called the building management and asked for plastic sheets and help.

Within minutes help arrived and office furniture was covered with plastic, and computers in both offices were unhooked and moved to a dry room. A bank of video play-back machines was rolled out of the adjoining conference room minutes before the ceiling tiles began to fall in that room.

Then, he called his administrative assistant.

This is the result of a 6 1/2 inch rainfall in one hour in Louisville, Kentucky. We're on the 14th floor of a 15-story downtown office building. The roof drains could not handle that much rain, that fast, and the roof could not hold back the weight of that much water.

If you think our offices are a mess, you should see the managing partner's law office and surrounding suite above us.

Not a single reporter called for a comment! But we were prepared with a standby statement. We practice what we preach.

By the way, we're still in business. Some of our Senior Consultants are working from home. I'm working from one of their offices at the other end of our suite, and much of our files and water logged office furniture has been moved elsewhere in the building.