Before COVID-19, most businesses underestimated the risk of public health incidents. The number of companies that had a pandemic action plan, one of the key tools to ensure pandemic resilience, was quite low. And so, the question going forward is: how to update or develop that pandemic action plan for the next one?
The pandemic action plan or playbook now needs to be a component of the crisis management and business continuity plan
In this era of hyper-mobility and interconnected supply chains, we now know that global health risk must be factored into crisis and business continuity planning. Specifically, preparing and putting flexible protocols in place (in the form of a pandemic action plan) proves the best way to mitigate losses and keep employees safe and productive during a global health crisis.
We’ve had some distance from the earliest days of the crisis – some organisations might even be trending in the direction of crisis recovery. For them, revisiting and revising the improvised pandemic action plan might be a solid next step to build resilience for the next one. What, then, are appropriate actions they should take?
Categories to consider when revising your pandemic action plan
Well, if we’ve learned anything, it’s that pandemics are highly fluid incidents, often of prolonged duration (e.g., COVID-19 and the late 1910s influenza outbreak). Public health law, in most cases, will supersede individual company response instructions, orders, and dictates. And local public health departments will remain the controlling authorities. In other words, a good pandemic action plan will retain a certain margin of manoeuvre for stakeholders.
Companies should have a clear pandemic action plan, nonetheless – if for any reason than to ensure employee safety and productivity, as well as maintain critical business activities. What goes in it, of course, depends on the situation at hand. We’d say, though, at a minimum the following five categories should be addressed; here’s what the rudiments of a smart pandemic action plan might look like:
- Roles and responsibilities. Identify pandemic steering (incident assessment) committee and response planning team members. Document steering committee terms of reference and response planning team roles and responsibilities.
- Risk identification and setting controls. Conduct individual assessments of the probability of occurrence and most plausible impact in each office location and document results in a risk matrix. Based on this assessment identify anticipated challenges and any need for corporate policy or common practice changes should the pandemic plan be activated. Take appropriate action to address identified challenges.
- Continuity of business-critical services. Review existing delegations of authority to ensure sufficient depth to cover staff losses in critical services. Review and modify existing emergency and crisis management processes to meet pandemic-specific requirements. Identify and document funding approval authorities and procurement procedures for unusual resource needs.
- Communications. Approve content and create scripts for “all staff” communications and information sessions. Identify and communicate roles and responsibilities of corporate spokespersons, management, liaison officers, pandemic response team members, and staff before, during, and after the pandemic has passed. Identify and appoint spokespeople for communications with distinct stakeholders
- Safety management policies. Design and prepare to implement a daily staff health status reporting procedure for all management teams. Review and modify corporate policy and/or contracts related to staff and external workers who might be at higher risk of exposure, e.g., cleaners and security staff. Define a corporate-wide management process for ensuring the safe transport home or to health facilities of workers who become sick. Define a corporate-wide policy on work from home strategies.
For a crisis as longstanding as the COVID-19, these measures would only scratch the surface. However, organisations looking to build pandemic resilience must start somewhere. Another proactive step these companies should take is procuring the right crisis management software solution to operationalise whatever pandemic action plan they come up with. Not sure what to look for, then download our Crisis Management Software Buyer’s Guide: