Archive for June, 2009

We have previously reported that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the H1N1 flu (aka Swine flu) to a full blown level 6 pandemic status.  In a Washington Post article John Barry, author of “The Great Influenza”, discusses what can and can’t be done to protect against the H1N1 flu. 

According to the article,  the impact of the pandemic and how many people the virus will sicken and kill depends on three things:

  1. The virus itself
  2. “Non-pharmaceutical interventions”
  3. The availability and effectiveness of a vaccine

The current H1N1 outbreak is following a similar behavioral pattern to the previously documented pandemics of initial sporadic activity with local instances of high attack rates, followed four to eight months later by waves of widespread illness with 20 – 40 percent of the population sickened.  The article indicates this is a 2 to 4 times increase of the normal percent of sickened people with annual flu.

While we don’t have control over the virus itself Mr. Barry indicates we do have control over the “non-pharmaceutical interventions ” (NPI’s) and vaccine.

The article indicated that the challenges with NPI’s are:

a) they are limited and the primary impact will be on flattening the pandemics peak and stretching out the duration of the illness which would take some of the stress off the infrastructure that is used to treat the illness.

b) the “fear fatigue” that can be associated with a long term warnings.   Barry said “Scholars Bradley Condon and Tapen Sinha found that in Mexico City this spring, when the government advised wearing masks on public transportation, compliance peaked at 65 percent three days later — but declined to 26 percent only five days after that. “ 

According to the Post article the most important human intervention is the vaccine.    The major issues here are developing an effective vaccine and having the supply available to treat the public.

Barry noted that we should not lose site of the H5N1 influenza strain (commonly known as bird flu) which is still an active and potentially dangerous strain.

 To access and read the entire article (which I strongly urge you to do) click here

When we think of disasters we usually go for the big ones, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, earthquakes, floods, civil unrest and the like.  These disasters are typically low frequency and have the potential for high risk.  While it’s important to plan for these types of disasters, it is more important to look for the high frequency, low impact. 

The following are 5 potential problems your business can face on a daily basis.  In addition to preparing for a quick response to these types of problems the processes and procedures you put in place can become the building blocks to cover the low frequency high impact recovery programs.

Loss of Power – From a downed power line to a transformer station fire, loss of power to your business can cost you revenue, customers,  and reputation.  

Loss of Phones – Phone lines cut, power outage, a “misunderstanding” with your phone service provider can leave you without land line contact to the outside world.  If your IT systems are affected, it can also make you invisible to the world.   

Employee Shortages – What do you do if 1/2 or more of your employees are unable to come to work?  Or what happens if key individuals are unable to come to work?  Be it from a snow storm, illness, or other cause, this can slow down order processing, provide less than ideal customer service or delayed billing.   

Evacuation Planning - It’s important for the safety of your employees and customers to be able to safely and efficiently evacuate the premises. 

IT system crash – This is especially important if your business is dependent on IT to survive.  Power outages, loss of data, system breaches, system hijacking, are just a few of the items that can put you in a loss position.  You will need to look at both the software and hardware.

Recently the World Health Organization upgraded their classification of the H1N1 (better known at the Swine Flu) to a level 6 pandemic.    This is not an indication of an increase in the severity of the disease, rather that the spread of the disease is more widespread across the globe.

In the US, it is business as usual as we had gone into the Pandemic mode more than a month ago.   For some countries this is a call to put into place their pandemic plans to protect their citizens and travelers.  For some companies, the change means heightening the review of travel plans to areas not previously reporting swine flu cases, reviewing the goods and services moving into and out of these areas (due to potential product demand shifts) and interruptions in some services due to the illness.

News reports indicate that drug manufacturers are developing a vaccine to help protect us from the disease and it should be available prior to the next flu season. 

You may be asking yourself, what should I be doing about this announcement? 

Hopefully you have implemented a pandemic strategy for situations like this and have focused on making sure your employees remain health and take the appropriate precautions.  If you haven’t designed a plan you have a few months before the flu season hits, you might want to begin the planning and communication process.