Pandemics continue to be a major concern for emergency preparedness managers worldwide. They indiscriminately kill millions of people and are one of the world’s oldest threats, dating back hundreds of years.

One of the ways pandemics occur is when a new influenza virus emerges and infects people easily, spreading from person to person in an efficient and sustained way. People may have little or no immunity to the pandemic virus, so the consequences can be severe.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns: “Influenza and its ever-present potential to cause global outbreaks of disease, or ‘flu pandemics,’ poses one of the world’s greatest infectious disease challenges.”

Three influenza pandemics were recorded in the 20th century, two of which were considered relatively mild, with 3 million fatalities recorded globally. The Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918, however, was considered severe, with more than 50 million deaths recorded globally.

The Role of Air Travel in Pandemic Risk

Experts expect air travel to rapidly fuel the spread of pandemic disease. For example, in September 2018, a United Emirates aircraft from Dubai arrived at Kennedy International Airport with approximately 100 of the more than 500 passengers and crew on board showing flu-like symptoms. Eleven required hospitalization.

This was an isolated incident and it was quickly contained, but experts believe this is how a pandemic will spread — through global air travel.

“These incidents tell us that we must begin planning and preparing now for the business effects of the next pandemic,” said business continuity expert Bob Clark, during a recent AlertFind webinar. “The time to prepare for the next contagion is now – if you wait until it’s in your backyard, it will be too late.”

The Knowledge Factor

It is easier to prepare for a pandemic outbreak than it is to react to it. Establishing a line of communication with your employees, stakeholders, customers, clients and supply chain are critical when establishing your pandemic preparedness plan.

For information on pandemics and how they can affect your business, visit CDC.gov and the World Health Organization‘s (WHO) website. They will offer guidance and protocols for before, during and after a pandemic impacts your business.

Pandemics as Part of Your Risk Assessment

Virtually every national risk register now has one thing in common: Pandemics are flagged as a major threat. Whether it’s from the seasonal flu or biological warfare, your workforce, customers and suppliers could very quickly be incapacitated. Reduce the risk for your organization by having a comprehensive pandemic preparedness plan in place.

This threat is a potential civil emergency that cannot be ignored, as it could impact businesses in many ways. Employees are vulnerable, but so are supply chains and your customer base. Organizations that are prepared can reduce risk as well as help protect their employees, suppliers and customers.

Clark said that, even after training, one question he often hears is: “How can I apply what I’ve learned in practice?”

“I believe you need to work along a subject matter expert,” Clark said. “Someone in your organization should have a primary directive of skill transference. If they’re not teaching while on-the-job, it’s just not as effective. If that person is not available, consider hiring a consultant or contractor with the skills you need. It will cost money but you have to look at the bigger business case in terms of what it will cost if you find yourself at the sharp end of an attack or threat. What will it do to your credibility? Could you have spent the time and resources to prevent or avoid this threat?”

To learn more from Bob Clark about how companies perform risk assessments for these emerging threats, listen to our new webinar, “Pandemics, Terrorism And Cyber Attacks: Is Your Organization Ready For The Evolving Risk Landscape?

Watch the Webinar