Thursday, May 7, 2009

Is your company ready for a pandemic?

USAToday has an interesting take on the Pandemic: As if the global economic crisis weren't enough, now an influenza pandemic threatens to disrupt business travel and postpone recovery from the global recession. While the World Health Organization (WHO), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other governmental entities grapple with this unfolding crisis and try to keep the public informed without creating a panic, many multinational organizations that depend on business travel may be ill-prepared if the pandemic spreads or becomes more deadly in the coming weeks or months.

More than 40% of 350 multinational organizations do not have a pandemic plan in place, according to a survey conducted by iJET International, Inc., a company that tracks global security and health threats.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) offer pandemic planning services on their websites, but putting together a good pandemic plan involves assessing all issues for your specific organization, according to Marty Pfinsgraff, Chief Operating Officer at iJET. "If you don't have a plan, you probably need some expert advice to work through the issues quickly," says Pfinsgraff.

Although many large organizations lack a pandemic plan, 80% of the iJET survey respondents do have a business continuity plan in place. Business continuity plans look more generally at operation disruptions, such as from hurricanes, power outages, computer system compromises or fires. A business continuity plan deals with the processes in place for bringing operations back to a normal state after a catastrophic event, according to Pfinsgraff.

Pandemics are different because "your facility becomes a place of risk," says Pfinsgraff. "If you have a lot of people sitting side by side in a call center, that becomes a relatively high risk environment when you are seeing human to human transfer of the disease."

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