‘Winter is Here’ and with it is a heightened possibility of illness. Whilst the enforcement of proper hygiene practices and vaccines can aid in the prevention of the spread of illness, it is inevitable organisations will see a greater amount of staff calling in sick during this period. There has already been over 10,000 case of influenza in NSW alone – and winter has just begun. Additionally, there are also 29 confirmed cases of Measles in Australia since Christmas 2018 – meaning that the rest of 2019 is looking to be a bumper period for pandemics in NSW and Australia as a whole.
If diagnosed with influenza, a person can expect symptoms such as: fever and chills, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, joint pains, headache, fatigue, nausea.
If diagnosed with measles, an individual can expect symptoms such as: fever, tiredness, a rash covering the body, and in severe cases, people will develop ear infections, diarrhea and will require hospitalisation.
Whilst both of these diseases carry levels of risk for the population, the effects and long-term impacts can vary greatly.
How could a pandemic impact your organisation?
A pandemic can impact your organisation in a number of ways, with many having a domino effect. For example: a reduction in the workforce leads to a decrease in output capacity, potentially leading to loss of revenue. For small to medium businesses – due to limited cash reserves, a pandemic could affect their financial viability. Large organisations and enterprises may not be able to deliver on services, resulting in reputational loss – leading to a loss of consumers and suppliers – essentially affecting its’ share price.
If impacted, will your organisation cope?
The complication of a flu or measles pandemic extends beyond individuals affected. Reductions in the workforce could also occur for the following reasons – employees caring for sick family members, caring for children due to school closures or simply staying away for fear of contamination.
Impacts can be immediate and expensive. Effective recovery can be time consuming if not properly planned. Therefore, it is essential for organisations to have a business continuity plan that can be readily applied to these situations, or any situation that could potentially cause a major business disruption. A robust business continuity plan should not only address the recovery of technology and facilities, but place a large emphasis on the human component.
What can your organisation do to mitigate risk?
Both Measles and the Flu can be prevented through hygiene and preventative measures.
- Ensure that you have had the appropriate immunization
- Two doses of measles containing vaccines should be given at least 4 weeks apart
- It is safe to have the vaccine more than twice, so people who are unsure should be vaccinated
- People who have been diagnosed with the measles should stay home until they are no longer contagious – i.e. 4 days after the rash starts
- Get the annual flu shot
- Sneeze into your elbow
- Wash your hands with soap and water regularly, especially after sneezing or coughing and using the bathroom
- If you believe that you are unwell or may have been exposed to someone who has influenza, see your GP immediately and do not come into work
Your organisation can mitigate risk by:
- Expanding on your Business Impact Analysis to include pandemics. “The Business Impact Assessment is the shared foundation stone of any good Business Continuity Plan. Through BIAs, each team member critically evaluates their business processes and the priority of that process during recovery. The interconnected nature of your business defines the goals along the path to achieving business recovery”, says Ben Patrick – Regional Manager at RiskLogic.
- Don’t wait on instructions from authorities. If you detect a hint of a pandemic, some areas of your plan may be implemented.
- Train, drill and exercise. A business continuity plan is meaningless if it cannot be implemented at the time of the crisis. One key area of success is to have a fully trained organisation – this can typically be achieved by involving second/third level stakeholders and even external agencies in drills and exercises.