Q. What is security’s role in planning and preparing for a possible H1N1 pandemic that could impact business continuity? For instance, should security be involved in decisions regarding possible travel restrictions? What do you think about developing a policy or guideline in the event of a contaminated employee and what are the pros and cons of stockpiling supplies?
A. The best answer is a company already has in place an established crisis management team, consisting of key company components for critical incident planning and response. This same crisis team concept is important in developing contingency plans for H1N1. Joint planning creates an understanding of each department’s area of responsibility, reduces duplication of effort, confusion or conflict and addresses the ongoing situation quickly. Any H1N1 planning and response must also include input from local and state health departments and information from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) www.cdc.gov . Local and state contacts are important since the impact of an outbreak will vary across geographic locations.
As in any crisis planning, security must be an integral partner with other company entities (human resources, medical, operations, legal, etc.,) in planning for a possible H1N1 pandemic. As a part of the planning team, security can provide advice and guidance on procedures that will have an impact on the protection of company assets (people, property, information and reputation). Security must be involved in decisions for alternate work environments and/or locations for employees, work from home strategies, increased social distancing in the workplace, restriction or cancellation of non-essential business travel, and possible disruptions while traveling overseas. Security must have an understanding of human resources, legal, and operational concerns prior to implementing their security procedures.
Prior to travel overseas travelers should be provided with information on what to expect if they are confronted with a suspected pandemic flu situation while in travel status and plans should be in place for the care of business travelers infected while traveling. The company should have arrangements with their travel department or contract agency on the number of employees in travel status and procedures for conveying important pandemic flu information to them.
It is important that communication be provided to employees on what to expect if the company and community are impacted by H1N1. There will be many issues outside the control of the business that may impact operations. For example, if schools are closed, what impact will this have on the workforce? If other businesses in the community close will this impact the company’s supplier or customer base, and will employees want to know why their company is not in sync with the community? With these external conditions influencing the business, the senior security executive should have networking in place with other corporate security executives and their counterparts in the public sector. Employees must have confidence in the information they are receiving and this can only be accomplished with good coordination between company components and also with outside agencies. Confusion can be eliminated if company employees have an understanding of company policies and procedures prior to a pandemic.
Since Security needs to maintain its staffing levels and its capability to protect company assets, consider the impact the pandemic may have on security personnel. Security personnel should be thoroughly briefed on company policies, personal protection, how to respond to suspected flu cases, and be provided with appropriate protective gear. A good idea is to conduct a tabletop exercise on a pandemic scenario with key members of the team to discuss responding to a pandemic. This will help to improve the team’s response and also to illuminate any deficiencies in the plan.
The following government website is a good resource that contains extensive planning documents, including checklists for businesses as well as individual and family planning guides: www.pandemicflu.gov.
The decision to stock pile influenza antiviral drugs during a pandemic must be made on a company by company basis. Guidance in the decision making process can be obtained from: Considerations for Antiviral Drug Stockpiling by Employers in Preparation for an Influenza Pandemic (www.flu.gov/vaccine/antiviral_employers.html).
Answer provided by Rad Jones, Security Executive Council Emeritus Faculty.