A timely pandemic wake-up call

However non-threatening the latest influenza scare might prove to be, it will at least have served as a timely wake-up call. And that’s important, as most experts concur that a major pandemic of one sort or another is likely to hit us hard over the next decade.

The latest outbreak is a useful reminder, as many managers have lost interest in the threat from avian flu owing to a lack of outbreaks and an absence of sensational media coverage. Advance planning for a pandemic is crucial to minimise its potential impact. The problem has been that in today’s economic climate it’s difficult to justify spending much time or money on a future threat that’s not in the forefront of everyone’s mind.

In fact there’s a lot that can be done to prepare an organisation for a pandemic. The most important task is to establish the vulnerability of key business processes, supply chains and other essential services to unanticipated absences of staff. The next thing is to identify key staff, and make appropriate arrangements to ensure they can continue to work with minimal exposure to potential sources of infection.

This demands a carefully considered plan with clear actions at key transition points. If you haven’t got such a plan, you should start now and put one in place. It doesn’t cost much to develop one. But it takes a lot of time to research the facts, analyse the findings and agree a strategy. Good business continuity planning is not done through knee-jerk reactions. It’s all about a slow, gradual appreciation of the smartest way to respond to a complex crisis.  

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