Friday, November 18, 2011

An Old Threat Still Hangs Over Us

The Institute for Crisis Management has been warning clients and anyone else who will listen that every business, no matter how small or big, every organization -- for profit or non-profit--needs to have a Pandemic Crisis Plan.

Ten years ago I was speaking to groups all over the U.S., Canada and South America urging them to develop a crisis plan for the next Pandemic.  Some listened, some pandemic plans were begun, but many blew it off. 

The attitude was and still is, that isn't gonna happen.  Medicine has advanced so much, doctors aren't going to let that happen.

This week The World Health Organization (WHO) hosted an international conference and  issued a strong warning that another deadly pandemic is "a matter of when and not if," according to WHO Assistant Director-General of Health Security Keiji Fukuda.

In 1918/1919 50-million people died worldwide, with half-a-million of those deaths in the United States

There have been two smaller worldwide pandemics since 1919. The next one was in 1957 when the Asian Flu killed 70,000 Americans and the most recent was 1968, when the Hong Kong Flu killed 34,000 Americans and thousands more around the world.

In spite of the medical advances and the worldwide surveillance for signs of pandemic type infected birds, the experts at WHO still maintain the terrible disease, borne by birds that travel from country to country, is a significant threat.

Besides, we have argued, the Pandemic Plan is just a specialized part of any organization's crisis plan.  Particularly that part of the crisis plan that deals with how your business or organization will respond to someone else's crisis.

An example:  You're Ford Motor Company and you have this wonderful, modern plant in Louisville, KY that makes the new Ford Escape.  The pandemic strikes the U.S.  You depend on scores of plants around north America and Mexico to supply parts that ultimately go into making your new Escape.

The pandemic hits some of the communities with suppliers that you depend on.  Half of the employees at six supplier plants are out sick or dieing.  You can't get enough parts to build vehicles and then you realize 30-percent of your workforce is out sick or dieing.  Do you have a plan for that?

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