As the current H1N1/swine flu outbreak continues, there are many unknowns and unanswered questions about the disease at this time. Despite this fact, public risk managers have a prime opportunity for demonstrating the importance of risk management within the public sector and for raising awareness of the benefits that risk management brings to public entities. PRIMA would like to assist your efforts during this time by offering guidelines and resources that assist with the planning and implementation of strategies that address this complex issue.
Business Continuity Plan
Most, if not all public entities have already developed a business continuity plan. The question to ask is whether that plan has a component for dealing with pandemics. There are similarities between business continuity planning and pandemic planning, but there are also distinct differences. Pandemic planning must consider incidents that are potentially longer in duration, that could occur in multiple waves, and that are not limited to a specific geographic area.
Public risk managers can do their part by making sure that business continuity plans provide for the following:
- A process that identifies the impact a pandemic could have on essential functions, names the resources available to assist the entity, and that allows for the prioritizing of these functions
- A preventive component that monitors outbreaks, communicates with outside entities and provides employees with proper education, tools and protection as they perform their duties
- Written guidance and documentation that aligns the entity’s efforts and resources with the stage of the epidemic that is present
- Procedures for maintaining critical operations within the entity for extended periods.
- Testing of the plan through drills tabletop exercises to prove viability and to identify gaps in procedures
A review process in order to keep plans, policies and procedures up-to-date.
Keep current with news updates, email alerts and RSS feeds on changes that will inevitably occur during a pandemic. In turn, keep employees and members of the community informed of your entity’s actions-not only to give the latest information, but also to ensure that factual and consistent data are distributed.
Preventing the spread of disease
Employees and the public must be made aware of basic hygiene procedures such as hand washing and staying home when feeling ill. An entity may also have to employ tactics such as social distancing and telecommuting in order to minimize staff contact. Cross training of employees can help provide key backups when there are staff shortages due to illness.
The PRIMA Cybrary will be the primary repository for information on pandemics. It can be accessed at http://www.primacentral.org/ under “Quick Links” on the PRIMA home page. As additional resources come forth, the Cybrary will be updated on a regular basis. If necessary, urgent alerts will be sent to members in order to provide timely information. If you have information on pandemics that you would like to share with other PRIMA members, please contact Paree Roper, Industry Specialist at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 703.253.1274.
Here are several Web sites that can assist with helpful information on swine flu and pandemics. These and many other additional resources can be found in the PRIMA Cybrary:
Centers for Disease Control and Infection-Swine Flu Website
Outbreak Communications-Best Practices for Communicating with the Public During an Outbreak
State and Local Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist
Law Enforcement Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist
Correctional Facilities Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist
Federal Guidance to Assist States in Improving State-Level Pandemic Influenza Operating Plans
The Pandemic Influenza Preparedness, Response and Recovery Guide for Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources