Here are some notes from the avian flu pandemic plan meeting I went to a couple of days ago. At the
meeting were people from Civil Defense, hospitals, utilities,
transportation, hotels, restaurants, the press, and various other state
and county agencies.
If you are presently working on putting a plan together, these notes may help. But
not all this may be of help to you in your particular situation so you
will need to decide what works for you. The main thing to
remember is that there are things you can and should do now to prepare.
I. In general, as many as 40 percent of the employees may stay away
from work for the following reasons:
A. He or she is sick with the avian flu.
B. Someone in their family is sick and must be cared for.
C. Schools are closed/no child care.
D. Afraid of catching the flu.
E. No transportation.
In order to mitigate these reasons, agencies may need to become more
“family friendly.” For example, you or your organization may need to provide a
way for your employee to work from home, provide on-site child care,
and/or transportation. For employees who are afraid to come to work,
you may try instituting an education program that lays out the ways the
flu is transmitted and reasonable and effective steps that can be taken
to avoid becoming infected.
Since the flu may be contagious even when no symptoms are yet
displayed, detection systems based on symptoms alone may not be very
effective. Hence, a multi-tiered system that includes
prevention, using the standard protocols of proper personal hygiene
(e.g., washing your hands, using a mask and or gloves, covering your
mouth when you cough or sneeze, maintaining social distance of about
six feet, etc.) may need to be emphasized.
Although up to 40 percent of employees may be out due to the reasons listed, the actual
day-to-day percentage may vary. One participant indicated
that for the first few days after the word is out that a pandemic has
started, he probably wouldn’t have any employees because they would all
be getting the supplies they felt they needed or making
arrangements for their families.
Transportation to or from the affected areas would be overwhelmed, then reduced or
cease. This includes people and cargo. Here in Hawaii
there would at first be a rush of tourists trying to leave the islands and
residents returning (assuming quarantine has not yet be
instituted). Not all tourists would be able to leave while at
the same time they might not be able to continue to stay at their
hotels (either because of no rooms or no money to pay for them). Goods
such as medicines, personal hygiene products, and food would soon
become in short supply. If it is possible to begin amassing a
long-term supply (at least a month, if not longer), to the extent
possible, now would be a good time to begin.
Communications during this period is critical. What do you
know and how do you know it? Who is the lead during this
period? Your local, state, or national health
department? The Governor? Civil
Defense? Find out and listen to them. Otherwise, you will be
overcome by rumors from any number of sources, many of which may be
Large gatherings of people such as sports events (e.g.,
football games at the stadium) may need to be canceled or avoided due
to risk of mass contamination.
our state, the Attorney General’s (AG) office is responsible for preparing the legal requests for
isolation/quarantine. The AG is also be working with the Public Defender’s office to work out the details on
how infected people will be represented in such proceedings. The legal profession in
your area may need to start thinking about these things, especially if
employers require legal documents such as these to prove you are out
sick (and are now healthy to return).
Hospitals and physicians will most likely request that those who
are not ill do not come to the hospital or doctor’s office because if
they do, and are not infected, they likely will be exposed to the virus
from those who are sick and congregating at these two types of
areas. This is counter-intuitive to the public as they have
been educated to go to the doctor/hospital if they want to be tested.
There are human resource questions as to what is the
policy of allowing sick people to come to work. If someone is
infected, do we prevent them from working? If so, under what
authority? If sick leave or vacation time are used up, but
they wish to stay home for any of the reasons in Roman numeral I, A
through E above, what are the policies? If the person is out
and a doctor’s note is required by the employer, how would they get one if
no doctor is available?
Families should be preparing now, much as they do for
hurricanes or other disasters. The difference is the length
of time to consider. If the pandemic last for several years, can you
stockpile food, medicines, diapers, toilet paper, etc. for this long a
period? If not, what alternatives are there?
Janitorial/rubbish pickup may be affected. How do we keep
our offices/businesses/homes sanitary?
Those who have public contact need to have
masks/respirators, gloves, and wash their hands.
Social distancing may require splitting employees into shifts or
otherwise dispersing them to other locations so that fewer are present
at one time in one location as an attempt to avoid cross contamination
(i.e., even if one of the shifts/locations become infected, the other
may still be okay).
Essential employees/functions must be identified just
as you would/have already for a strike.
There must be manual processes for all critical
electronic ones because infrastructure like electricity and
phone/Internet access may not be available or reliable.
Possible impacts to the courts (state and/or federal): orders for
quarantine/isolation, probate, contested wills, bankruptcy, burglary,
and theft (as order is lost, as occurred post Katrina and in Iraq).
Again, the main point is to begin planning now. Although life during
a pandemic may be a struggle, it may be worse if we aren’t prepared
before hand. YMMV. Use at your own risk. Insert disclaimer here.