Monday, May 4, 2009

Pandemic Planning Tips For Businesses

The H1N1 virus – a.k.a. The swine flu – seemingly lost some significance over the weekend. After a week of hysteria, officials are now saying that the impending pandemic is not as bad as they first believed. That is welcome news and we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

However, the scare isn't quite over. The flu of 1918 started in the Spring of that year, but there was a lull over the summer before reaching pandemic proportions during the flu season the following winter. Millions eventually died.

Business can take away some lessons from the H1N1 incident to include in their continuity plans:

Include pandemics as part of your disaster planning

The lesson here isn't that officials got it wrong. Instead, it is a wake-up call. Planning and preparations for a pandemic or other disaster are an absolute must. It is not a question of if, but when.

Plan for the impact on your business

Consider which staff members are critical to operations during an outbreak. Plan for scenarios in which demand for your products or services might increase or decrease dramatically. How will business travel be affected?

Plan for the impact on employees and customers

Employees and customers may fall ill or have contagious family members. How will this affect your business? Policies should be established to address potential issues -- including employee contact, shared workspace, meetings, etc. – with the intention of reducing the likelihood of spreading a virus.

Communicate and educate employees

As the leader of a business, it will behoove you to inform staff on a pandemic. Find credible and reliable sources of information to keep abreast of the developments so you can help employees understand the realities. Otherwise, the rumor mill will do it for you with unpredictable consequences.

Disseminate the preparedness and response plan

A disaster plan is no good unless people know about it. The plan should be shared so they know what is can be expected from the organization during an event and also what is expected of them.

With a little planning, a pandemic's impact on your business can be reduced. It is not hard to do, but it does require a little forethought.

Disaster Preparedness Consulting, LLC

Monday, April 6, 2009

Italian Scientist Muzzled Over Earthquake Warnings

Authorities dismissed the calls of seismologist Gioacchino Giuliani who warned that a series of small tremors were signs of a larger quake to come. In March, the man was reported to authorities and accused of spreading panic.

Giuliani based his findings on a growing amount of radon gas around the seismic activity. He concluded that the smaller activity was a sign of a larger quake.

The mayor of L'Aquila, about 60 miles east of Rome, Italy, forced Giuliani to remove his findings from the Internet. Meanwhile, Italy's Civil Protection agency convened a group of scientists to refute in an effort to calm the public.

Unfortunately, Giuliani was right. A 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck central Italy. More than 60 people are reported dead. Authorities believe as many as 50,000 people may now be homeless.

Source: Dozens dead, many hurt as big earthquake hits Italy

Source: Italy muzzled scientist who foresaw quake

Disaster Preparedness Consulting, LLC

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The "Other" Business Disruptions

What kinds of causes come to mind when you think of events that might interrupt a business? Most people probably think of destructive natural events, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, or man-caused incidents like data theft and cyber attacks.

However, there are many more commonplace events that could do a business irreparable harm that merit consideration in any continuity plan.

Public relations crisis – Any business owner knows that reputation is a valuable intangible that must be protected at all costs. Yet, it only takes one event to lose or tarnish it. Let's say you experience data theft. The next thing you know, a local news organization has victims lined up in front your store telling their horrific stories. How would you handle a public relations meltdown?

Equipment failures – What would happen if your telephone or email system went down for a couple days? Would you be able to assist customers who need help during that period? Would you be able to reach your own vendors and suppliers to keep things moving along?

Theft or vandalism – Often times, theft or vandalism can damage your critical functionality. What effects might either have on your business?

Human error – Errors caused by people are probably the most common events that could lead to disaster. Typically, they are related to lack of training, fatigue, or carelessness. Consider what areas of your critical functions might be vulnerable to error.

Loss of key personnel – Ask yourself, what would happen if one of your key employees were to be hit by a bus tomorrow?

Environmental hazards – A hazardous spill could occur in your area that has nothing to do with your company. Nonetheless, authorities will force you to evacuate if you're in the danger zone. Do you have the means to operate off-site if you're unexpectedly denied access to your own company?

While disasters can not be predicted, a little planning and preparation for them can go a long way towards mitigating their effects on your business. It may be useful to think about major disasters in your planning, but it is also worthwhile to consider risks posed by smaller, more commonplace events that can prove just as devastating.

Disaster Preparedness Consulting, LLC