Swine Flu Part 2… Are You Prepared?

August 19, 2009

With the second phase of the Novel A (H1N1) influenza virus (commonly known as Swine Flu) coming over the horizon, we thought it would be great timing to give a few tips and pointers for your Business Continuity pandemic event planning and process. We know that some of the ideas listed may be a little farfetched for your organization so rather than using these items as a to-do checklist, think of them as discussion topics for your next BCP planning/testing session.

Education – The number one recommendation from the experts is to educate employees on ways to protect themselves, including cough hygiene, hand washing, using sanitizers, not touching their face, etc. Simply putting out a bottle of hand sanitizer with a sign saying “Use me, I make you smell better” is probably not enough. Did you know that when washing your hands the CDC says you should be in soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds? Not patient enough? Aren’t we all! Try singing Happy Birthday twice through to yourself and you’ll feel cleaner than ever.

A Scarlet Letter – No one wants to be labeled as the sicky, but it is important to take extra precaution around people when you are not feeling topnotch. We’re not saying go around yelling “Unclean! Unclean!” But what we are saying is that home may be the best place for the sick. Incorporating a flexible leave and stay at home policy should be considered. Employers are directed not to require a doctor’s note to return to work so the doctor’s offices and hospitals are not overwhelmed with healthy people asking for gold stars. It is recommended that employees wait 24 hours before returning to work after a fever has lifted.

Stand Back, Please – If National conditions worsen, the concept of social distancing should be put into place. A good idea is to keep employees and customers about six to eight feet apart. Where possible, consider limiting face to face interaction and instigating alternate work shifts or telecommuting via Skype. Some financial institutions plan to only open drive-through or even issue disposable masks as customers enter the door (and are recorded with face showing by a camera).

Masquerade – Where distancing is not possible (i.e., elevators, bathrooms, multiple people working on a project together, etc.), masks could be worn. We recognize this is contrary to most financial institution policies, but an outbreak could bring tough controversial decisions. To improve moral, have a masquerade. Allow your employees to decorate their face masks anyway they wish. Create a contest for the most creative, most colorful, most like a cartoon character, etc. You may need to set some boundaries for appropriateness – We’re not sure how comfortable we would feel if a vampire or bank robber were processing our deposited checks or approving a loan.

Cleaning frenzy extraordinaire – High trafficked areas manifest the most bugs. Most cleaning services don’t clean areas such as doorknobs, handrails, elevator buttons, light switches, telephones, shared keyboards, mouse, headsets, desk surfaces, counter tops, ATM key pads, after-hours depositories, or anything else more than one person would touch. Make disinfectant wipes readily available and advise your employees to sanitize their own office spaces frequently. Some financial institutions have planned to install Clorox wipes right next to drive through and ATM locations.

Little guys and gals – Do many of your employees have children? Schools are enforcing new policies to close down if there is a Swine Flu outbreak. With schools being closed, who will be available to watch the children except for their parents? What if half of your personnel have little ones at home? Significant analysis in this area and cross-training could really payoff in the event of an outbreak.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate – Not knowing who to call or what to do is like being a lost Nemo in a giant ocean. Consider creating platforms for communicating Swine status and actions to employees, customer/members, vendors, suppliers, and anyone else in or outside of the workplace. Platforms include hotlines, dedicated websites, someone dressed as a pig waving a sign that says “Yes! We’re OPEN!” Consistency and frequency is the key.

For more information from the Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, check out CDC’s General Business and Workplace Guidance for the Prevention of the Swine Flu in Workers



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