Unlike regional events such as hurricanes, earthquakes, or terrorist attacks, a pandemic is a recurring global event with global implications. Thus, outbreaks of influenza A (H1N1) and MERS-CoV, for example, have underscored the critical importance of effective pandemic planning and response to minimize the potential for human morbidity and mortality, reduce social and economic disruptions, and mitigate against organizational risk exposures.
Preparing for a Pandemic
Organizations are well advised to review their ability to respond to potential disruptions to their operations and protect the well-being of employees — whether caused by pandemic or other unforeseen events. Following are some of the many issues and actions that should be considered before a pandemic begins:
- Treat a pandemic as a truly catastrophic event as opposed to a "manageable disruption."
- Establish pandemic planning committees, supported by real budgets.
- Prioritize critical products and services and prepare to protect those, even at the expense of other important elements of a business model.
- Estimate and plan for post-pandemic changes, including shifts in demand patterns, in the availability and morale of staff, and in infrastructure, both locally and to vendors.
In the immediate term of any pandemic outbreak, Marsh recommends that organizations:
- Assess existing pandemic risk management plans and how the organization has performed to date in relation to past H1N1 and other pandemic outbreaks.
- Ensure business continuity management (BCM) plans include pandemic scenarios and exercise the plans where possible.
- Review company policies on travel, on hygiene, and on anti-viral medications and health care support to ensure they are consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and similar organizations.
- In highly populated areas, ensure the BCM plans allow for staff to work at home where appropriate.
- Consider if there are any vital processes that must be maintained in a pandemic, such as call centers, health services, and services vital to those most vulnerable.
- Decide what other core functions need to be kept running if the organization becomes short staffed.
The information in this center will be updated on a regular basis from subject matter experts from Marsh and other Marsh & McLennan Companies.
If you have any questions or concerns about pandemic preparedness, please do not hesitate to contact us. You should also seek guidance from health agencies and governmental entities for the most current information about the H1N1 pandemic in your locality.