Given the unique attributes of each pandemic and how each evolves, such situations should be monitored closely. Pandemic plans and responses must include the ability to react quickly and be flexible to changing scenarios in accordance with the phase of the pandemic. The hardest hit companies in any industry are likely to be those with worldwide operations, global supply chains, and/or international customers. Additionally, as seen with influenza A (H1N1), local, state, and national governments may curtail travel, close schools, quarantine individuals and communities, and/or ban public gatherings.
While managing through the potential impacts of an outbreak may seem daunting, organizations with tried and tested tools, processes, and procedures, as well as an understanding of available risk transfer options, will be able to better protect employees, preserve revenue streams, and meet organizational resiliency objectives.
Preparing for and Responding to a Pandemic
Marsh recommends that organizations review their ability to respond to potential disruptions to their operations and protect the well-being of employees — whether caused by a pandemic or other unforeseen events. Some of the many issues and actions to be considered in relation to a potential pandemic include:
Treat a pandemic as a truly catastrophic event as opposed to a "manageable disruption."
- Establish pandemic planning committees, supported by real budgets.
- Review business continuity management (BCM) and crisis management plans to determine if they include pandemic scenarios; exercise the plans where possible.
- Review current insurance coverages to determine which might be applicable and what others might be available to cover pandemic exposures.
- 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, and the availability and morale of staff, vendors, and infrastructure, locally and globally.
When a pandemic does occur, Marsh recommends that organizations:
- Assess existing pandemic risk management plans and how the organization is performing to date in relation to the current outbreak.
Review company policies on travel, hygiene, and 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, 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.