As news and information regarding the novel coronavirus continues to emerge, the situation has raised many questions around business continuity in the face of potential closures—whether to avoid the virus or quarantine those who have already been exposed.
While there is a lot of concern surrounding this outbreak, it’s important to remember that similar situations have emerged in recent history, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)—a coronavirus itself—as well as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
As with the current novel coronavirus—or any mass outbreak in the past—the key is being prepared and proactive before you are faced with the challenges that emerge. As such, pandemic preparation must be an integral part of your business continuity plan to reduce the potential for disruption.
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Before defining your pandemic plan, consider the following questions:
- Does your current Business Continuity Plan address a pandemic event?
- At what point should a pandemic response plan be initiated?
- How would your business operate on a significantly reduced staff of up to 40 percent?
- How would you deal with supply chain interruptions and significant delays?
- What about insurance coverages? Have you reviewed your policies, do you know what is covered and what is not?
- Would product demand be diminished or reduced in the event of a pandemic?
- Can you outsource your core functions (what is your capacity to have your staff work from home)?
- What about communication, IT/network capabilities?
- How will you protect your staff and minimize the impact on your operation?
- Have you considered vendors or services that may be able to restore certain functions or provide equipment to allow business to continue?
- Who should lead your pandemic plan?
This data will help you prepare your business for a pandemic situation and assist in the next steps of building a strategic plan as follows:
PHASE I: Program Initiation
- Plan the scope and assumptions for your plan
- Identify a program leader
- Outline and define the plan, consider the questions above when developing your plan
PHASE II: Program Analysis
- Create a pandemic business impact analysis
- Assess your business risks
- Identify mitigation steps or processes
PHASE III: Strategy Development
- Develop your operational strategy
- Develop vendor and supply chain strategy
- Develop and IT and communications strategy
- Develop your pandemic policies
PHASE IV: Plan Development
- Develop an alert procedure
- Develop an pandemic incident response plan
- Integration into the existing business continuity plan
PHASE V: Implementation
- Workforce orientation and communication
- Personnel training
- Resource and vendor acquisition
- Monitoring activation
We cannot prevent pandemics, so it’s important to consider the potential impact a pandemic would have on your organization and create an adaptable pandemic plan. Although your business infrastructure will likely not be impacted by a pandemic, the availability of people may be diminished and this can have a devastating effect on your business during an event.
It’s important to assess all job tasks and determine how you can mitigate and minimize business interruption by cross training and allowing key staff to work from home during a pandemic event. Also communication and IT services are key—you must have a plan in place to communicate with your employees and customers.
Ultimately, it’s crucial to have a proactive plan and remain adaptable as a pandemic situation unfolds.