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Tips for updating your corporate pandemic response plan

To ensure your workplace pandemic response plan is up-to-date and sufficient, check it against other business continuity procedures, and consult important sources for further guidance.

The 2020 Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak presents a significant threat to employee health and business operations. As the virus spreads the World Health Organization has said companies should prepare for a widespread pandemic. Now is the time to review and update your corporate pandemic response plan.

In this article, we'll provide tips to ensure that you address how to help your business plan for this virus and future pandemics.

First, see if your existing business continuity (BC) plan has been updated to reflect business changes, such as new products and services, as well as mergers or acquisitions. Assuming you review and update your BC plan at least annually, changes may have an impact on your corporate pandemic response plan. Identify the BC plan changes, and then, examine how they may alter your pandemic plan.

If alternate procedures and protocols for running the business are needed, determine if these changes are also relevant for a pandemic event. Update the pandemic plan's protocols as needed.

Consult the authorities

When doing any work on your BC plan, see if your corporate pandemic response plan should also be updated.

Next, check with HR to see if any changes have been made to employee health benefits, such as a change of health insurance provider, and if those changes have an impact on the corporate pandemic response plan. Does the organization provide flu shots and screening for the flu and other illnesses? If there are changes to any health-related services, it may be necessary to add those changes to the pandemic response plan.

Check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for new information on preparing and updating pandemic plans. The CDC provides extensive information on all aspects of pandemic planning.

Check with the Federal Emergency Management Agency for new information on pandemic planning. In addition, provides handy tools to help you build plans and be prepared in advance of a pandemic.

Plan ahead and review

Schedule and conduct a pandemic plan exercise at least annually to ensure that employees and members of emergency teams are familiar with the plan's activities. Consider including the corporate pandemic response plan when preparing and executing the next exercise of your BC plan.

For the next scheduled risk assessment and business impact analysis, consider including pandemic-related issues. A pandemic, while a relatively rare event, is still a threat to your organization and its ability to conduct business. By contrast, the frequency of flu epidemics and recent problems with approved vaccines suggests that a serious flu epidemic may still result in employee illness and lost productivity.

Corporate pandemic response planning templateClick on the above image
to download our free
corporate pandemic
planning template.

A serious epidemic could sideline a number of employees, so be sure to have a succession plan in place. This means identifying employees who have complementary skills for use in the absence of other employees. In collaboration with HR, conduct a skills inventory, and map overlapping skills. This will help identify employees who could back up key people if they are unavailable due to illness.

Review your incident response and emergency management plans to make sure they can address a pandemic.  Schedule and conduct training for emergency personnel on how to respond to a pandemic event.

Review emergency communications processes to ensure they can also address pandemic requirements. Create and share a glossary of important terms used in the plans to ensure language is used consistently. Be sure to have a process for notifying employees of any developments or changes and how the organization will handle them.

Finally, a workplace pandemic preparedness plan should include keeping appropriate supplies on hand. Where appropriate, stock personal protective equipment, nonperishable food, water and office supplies, so that they are available for employees.

BC and pandemic plans are closely intertwined. When doing any work on your BC plan, see if your corporate pandemic response plan should also be updated. The recent flu season and the emergence of the Covid-19 coronavirus is a timely reminder that now is the perfect time to review and update your pandemic plan.

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