Preparing for H1N1

What would happen to your business if a majority of your employees were hit with the H1N1 (Swine) flu? Do you have a plan in place to keep your company up and running if half of your employees are out sick? Do your employees know they should stay home if they have flu-like symptoms? Have you cross-trained job responsibilities of key employees?
Lately, everywhere you turn people are talking about H1N1. The Harvard School of Public Health recently completed a national survey of businesses that looked at their preparedness for an H1N1 outbreak. Researchers found that only one-third of businesses surveyed believe they could sustain their business without severe operational problems if half their workforce were absent for two weeks due to H1N1. Only 20% believe they could avoid such problems for one month with half their employees out.
 
Clearly, the majority of businesses are not prepared.
 
Having a clear communications plan is essential.
 
Following are some quick steps organizations should be taking to prepare themselves for an H1N1 outbreak:
 
1. Update your company’s crisis plan.  This includes making sure that everyone on the crisis team is aware of their responsibilities.  Double check contact information for key team members as well as the 2nd and 3rd level team. Knowing how to find people can save valuable time when decisions and approvals need to be made.
 
2. Begin internal discussions among key crisis team members.  How are you going to monitor the situation? What are the action “triggers” if employees are diagnosed with suspected H1N1?  This is especially critical for those whose operations interact directly with the public – for example, the food service, retail and health-care industries.
 
3. Develop platforms (e.g. hotlines, dedicated websites) for communicating pandemic status and actions to employees, vendors, suppliers and customers, inside and outside the worksite in a consistent and timely way, including redundancies in the emergency contact system. Let everyone know ahead of time how to find this information.
 
In the past, employees have often felt that it was a badge of honor to come into work when they were sick. Now is a good time to clarify your company policy and consider having employees stay home if they have flu-like symptoms.
 
If your company needs guidance preparing a crisis communication plan, The Perry Group has the experience necessary to help.  Being prepared is half the battle.
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