While the outbreak of a full-scale avian flu pandemic remains highly unlikely, the United States Government has developed an implementation plan for dealing with such a crisis. Based on the mortality rate of a World War I-era pandemic in the U.S., a similar outbreak could result in at least 2 million deaths in the U.S. alone. To ensure the continuity of business under conditions of staffing shortages, the White House is recommending that U.S. businesses follow these basic guidelines to ensure continuity of operations:
- Develop and document a continuity of operations (COOP) plan that provides for the continued performance of an organization's essential functions under all circumstances.
- Focus on maintaining essential functions, services and capabilities required to sustain business operations.
- Pre-establish delegations of authority to ensure that all company personnel know who has the authority to make key decisions in a COOP situation.
- An order of succession is essential to ensure personnel know who has authority and responsibility if leadership is incapacitated or unavailable in a COOP situation.
- Identify and prepare alternate operating facilities, and prepare personnel for the possibility of an unannounced relocation of essential functions.
Interoperable and effective communication systems are vital to support connectivity of internal organizations, external supply chain partners, key customers and the public.
Supply Chains At Risk
- Identify, protect and ensure the ready availability of electronic and hard copy documents, references, records, and information systems needed to support essential functions.
- Develop, update, exercise and be able to implement comprehensive plans to protect your workforce.
- Test, train and exercise your company's COOP capabilities.
- Companies need to have a devolution strategy in place. Devolution is the capability to transfer authority and responsibility from primary operating staff and facilities to other employees and facilities.
- After the pandemic has run its course, the objective during the reconstitution and recovery phase is to expedite the return of normal services and operations as quickly as possible.
Further guidance and references for these activities can be found at www.pandemicflu.gov.