Jumpstart Your Pandemic Planning With These Templates

Pandemics are universal threats to all businesses. In order to protect their employees’ health and safety as well as their business operations, organizations need to ensure they have comprehensive plans in place.

Learn More And Help Your Organization Weather The COVID-19 Crisis: Get The Free COVID-19 Pandemic Communications Resource Guide.

To get a sense of how a disease can quickly impact a population, let’s look at this year's flu season. It was one of the worst in recent memory, particularly when looking at mortality rates and hospitalizations.

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a total of 28,543 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations were reported between Oct. 1, 2017, and March 31, 2018.

The overall hospitalization rate was 99.9 (per 100,000 population), or nearly 1 in 1,000. The highest rate of hospitalization was among adults older than 65 years (429.4 per 100,000 population), followed by adults aged 50-64 (108.7 per 100,000 population) and children aged birth-4 years (71.2 per 100,000 population). Additionally, 142 pediatric deaths were attributed to the flu in the same period.

When looking at pandemics, businesses also need to consider what effect it could have if it hits a location where its customers or suppliers live. Take China, for example. It has a significant population and plays a major role in many supply chains. Customers, suppliers and employees based in China all could be exposed, which is another reason why pandemic planning is critical for all companies.

Spotting The Signs

There are a range of illnesses that have the potential to become pandemics. For example, the H1N1 influenza virus spread internationally and claimed several thousand lives. Its deadliness was exacerbated by the fact that it was a new influenza virus to which many people had no preexisting immunity.

Another example is severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which spread to more than 24 countries in North America, South America, Europe and Asia before the outbreak of 2003 was contained.

The World Health Organization (WHO) lists recognized pandemics. Businesses should consult this list, assess their exposure and prepare appropriately, because diseases can infiltrate an organization with exposure to just one infected person.

Pandemics Planning Templates And Government Resources

There are a range of government resources that can help businesses perform pandemic planning through the use of templates and checklists. They include:

Pandemic Influenza Template: Provides guidance to assist organizations in developing a Pandemic Influenza Continuity of Operations Plan or, if the organization already has a continuity plan, a Pandemic Influenza Annex. General guidance and sample information is provided for reference and organizations are encouraged to tailor Pandemic Influenza Continuity Plans to meet their specific organizational needs and requirements.

Business Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist: Geared toward large businesses, this checklist identifies important, specific activities to perform to prepare, many of which will also help in other emergencies.

Pandemic Preparedness Planning for U.S. Businesses with Overseas Operations: This guide helps U.S. businesses with overseas operations prepare and implement pandemic business continuity. It features a list of suggestions and can serve as a starting point for developing a comprehensive plan. The checklist highlights actions applicable to businesses of all sizes and factors in employees’ welfare and crisis communications. Each item will not necessarily apply to every overseas business.

Business Pandemic Planning Checklist: For this list, an organization should identify a pandemic coordinator and/or team with defined roles and responsibilities to develop, maintain and act upon an influenza pandemic preparedness and response plan. The planning process should involve employees and include input from labor representatives. It recommends that you plan assuming a 30-50% absentee rate and make informed, strategic decisions moving forward.

Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic: OSHA's guide covers nearly every scenario related to an influenza pandemic. From how to classify the exposure risk among employees to maintaining operations to risk reduction techniques, this resource truly runs the gamut of pandemic preparedness.

Planning Is A Must

When looking to the future, emergency preparedness expert Robert A. Clark referenced the UK National Risk Register, which estimates that the odds of a major pandemic are between 1-in-20 and 1-in-2. Furthermore, the register projects that the next severe pandemic will occur in the next five years.

With this in mind, Clark said businesses must plan for a pandemic. “Probability-wise, it doesn't get much closer,” he said. “If you compare many state or national risk registers, it would be difficult to find one where pandemic was not listed as the number one threat.”

As with any significant business crisis, timely, accurate communications are essential during a pandemic. Read the free COVID-19 Communications Resource Guide. 

You are well on your way toward protecting your staff and organization.

Take the next step toward protecting your organization by learning more about emergency notification systems and the vital role they play in your emergency preparedness plan.