With the Coronavirus spreading quickly, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared a global emergency.
The virus is currently in more than twenty countries and the number of cases is spiking at an alarming rate. Not only is this virus spreading faster than previous viruses, but the severity of symptoms and outcomes also seems to be greater, raising the public’s concern. As the financial markets begin to react to increasing concerns of a pandemic, businesses need to be proactive to minimize the potential effects within their own organizations.
So what does “Pandemic” mean and what, if any, are the implications to businesses? The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines a pandemic as “a global outbreak of a new influenza A virus that is very different from current and recently circulating human seasonal influenza A viruses. Pandemics happen when new (novel) influenza A viruses emerge, which can infect people easily and spread from person to person in an efficient and sustained way.” But the question is, do we really need to worry about a pandemic?
The simple answer is, yes, you need to prepare. It’s good business practice to always be prepared for a potential emergency that could affect business operations. A pandemic is no different. As a business owner or executive, you need policies to help determine how your business will react in the event of any emergency.
Incidents to consider are fire, weather emergencies, or in the case of a pandemic, should a large number of employees become sick or are absent, having a plan to ensure a faster return to business as usual and business continuity in the face of high absenteeism. Additionally, having a plan will ensure fair treatment of employees while they are out and secure compliance with applicable federal and state laws.
In addition to the plan helping out with business continuation, a thorough plan will protect employees and encourage practices that limit the spread of a virus. Employers can help cut workers' chances of getting sick by encouraging employees to stay home and use available paid time off when ill. Employers can also offer in house vaccine clinics and maintain a sanitary workplace with antibacterial soaps that are easily accessible.
Some key points to keep in mind when developing an emergency preparedness plan are:
- Assess how your company functions, both internally and externally, to determine which materials, staff, procedures and equipment are necessary for keeping the business operating. How will you reorganize in the event such resources aren’t available?
- Identify suppliers, shippers and other vendors you deal with regularly and set up contingency plans should their operations be interrupted.
- Plan what to do if your building, store or plan isn’t accessible. Are people able to work from home? If so, are they currently set up to do so?
- Plan for payroll continuity.
- Define crisis management procedures and who should play a role in these procedures. Review these plans annually to ensure they are up to date with the times.