So You Don’t Have a Pandemic Plan, Now What?

Many organizations around the world are in a state of shock as they press forward to take unprecedented actions to help stem the crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Beyond the threat to public health, the speed of news flow (both real and misinformed) in the last seven days alone has come with such force it is now characterized as an “infodemic” an issue in its own right.

These overwhelming forces are coupled with the severity of shutdown actions taken by various municipal, state and national authorities around the world. Now, many organizations are left to figure out how to take effective and orderly action to protect their critical assets and operations.

Does your business continuity management program (BCMP) contain a pandemic planning component to guide you through challenges and disruptions created by the coronavirus?

Here are a five essential steps to help your organization remain resilient:

1. Establish an emergency communication plan that covers employees, customers and suppliers

  • Have you identified key contacts in each department who understand the operational details of that business function?
  • Does your organization have a way for customers to communicate concerns, get questions answered, etc.?
  • Have you established a regular line of communication with key suppliers?
  • Have you sent initial communication to each of these groups of employees, customers and suppliers?

2. Engage leaders internally to coordinate and synchronize ongoing action

  • Have you established a regular forum to keep your organization synchronized on the latest developments and corresponding actions?
  • Do you have a plan to keep in frequent contact with employees, customers, and suppliers?

3. Engage authorities to understand the situation on the ground

  • Have you contacted municipal and state authorities to understand their state of activation?
  • Have you established a regular line of communication to receive ongoing updates?

4. Take actions to maintain operations

  • Have you tasked key contacts to identify what is minimally necessary to continue operations?
  • Does that function have what it needs—from an employee and facility perspective—to continue operations?
  • If not, can the function continue at a diminished capacity with some administrative changes, i.e., three shifts, instead of two to compensate for fewer workers in the facility at any given time?
  • Has your organization taken all health and safety precautions to ensure safe working conditions for your employees?

5. Monitor workforce, suppliers, and general situational changes

  • What is our plan to understand changes in workforce availability?
  • What is our plan to understand supplier availability?
  • What is our plan if the pandemic “shutdown” progresses to four weeks? Six weeks? Ten weeks?
  • What additional support do employees or suppliers need as the pandemic progresses?
  • Is there a point at which continuing operations is infeasible? Is there anything you should do to alleviate that scenario? What actions should you take for employees, customers, and suppliers?

Expect Ongoing Disruptions

Using pandemic history as an indicator, the world is likely to experience waves of COVID-19 infections throughout the rest of the year, and maybe longer. That means organizations should continuously assess and update business continuity and disaster recovery plans. This first wave provides a unique opportunity to evaluate your existing mitigation, response and recovery protocols to find weakness and gaps to facilitate future operational resiliency.

Whether it peaks and dies down like a flu cycle and then comes back in the fall is also something. We can watch the Southern hemisphere and figure out what’s going on a little bit more but that’s another wave I think we’ve got to get ready for,” said Kathleen Sebelius, former U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary under President Obama.

Organizations can take the steps mentioned above to ensure they are current on the state of the pandemic today. More importantly, many organization should plan for what may be ahead in the weeks and months to come.

Ready for some hands-on help? Let’s discuss how to best achieve your resilience goals.