An outbreak of swine flu virus has killed 81 in Mexico, with further cases being found in the United States. New Zealand, France and Israel has also reported suspected cases. The government in Mexico has imposed restrictions, closing public buildings, including schools, and cancelling public events. Some 70% of bars and restaurants in Mexico City are reported as being closed. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed that this is a new strain of the swine flu virus, and is monitoring the situation, and advising heightened surveillance.
This is an interesting case, given the recent pressure for many businesses and organisations to prepare for a potential outbreak of avian flu, and demonstrates the need for planning for all incidents that could have an impact on critical resources for your business (in this case, a potential impact on staff), and not for one specific scenario. However, where Pandemic Plans have been prepared, this would be a sensible time to confirm that they are up-to-date, and that staff are aware of their duties within the plan.
It is essential that businesses consider the potential impact on their staff, which may be through illness or through the need to stay at home to care for family members or children who cannot attend school, and consider the resultant impact on business processes. A Business Impact Analysis will identify critical staff and training requirements, and help to demonstrate where cross-training is critical to ensure that essential activities can be continued, or where alternate strategies will need to be considered. Crisis Management training and exercising will assist any Incident Management Teams to understand their roles and responsibilities during such an incident, and will give confidence in their ability to ensure an effective response.
It is also essential that there is an awareness programme for all members of staff so that they understand the possible impact on the business, and where they may have a role to play. Equally, absence and pay policies will need to be confirmed to reassure staff.