Planning Your Response to Coronavirus

Steve Bassine

Coronavirus poses unique emergency planning challenges for global companies, Learn how they can respond.

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While the World Health Organization (WHO) has not yet declared the recent Coronavirus (COVID-19) a global pandemic, the disease is still spreading rapidly, having serious effects on the global economy. As of March 5th, 2020, there were 95,333 cases confirmed with over 3,000 deathsthe vast majority of cases are located in China. With no signs of slowing down, companies are grappling with how to protect its employees and handle jobs and projects in the growing number of affected regions.

Several governments, organizations and the media have shared guidelines for limiting the spread of COVID-19. For many global companies, however, a well-developed Pandemic Response Plan (PRPs) is an effective tool for helping them come to terms with their unique risks and plan appropriately. In an ideal world, a PRP should be developed during normal conditions, prior to an outbreak. But companies with global operations or multinational interactions should still re-evaluate and examine ongoing pandemic risks and vulnerability factors to provide employees with critical knowledge, proactive procedures and necessary resources.

Developing a PRP helps to establish a safe work environment, minimize the spread of the disease and preserves business continuity.

Your PRP should focus on documenting procedures and methods to minimize exposures and sustain critical business functions with reduced staffing throughout different stages of the outbreak. When developing your plan, it’s useful to define impact levels for the various stages.

Level 1 – Maintain normal operations

  • Establish contact verification and notification measures with employees and key stakeholders, including when a member of staff is infected or potentially exposed to infected people (internal and external)
  • Perform vendor and supplier due diligence to determine risk of operations termination based on dependence of a single supplier or vendor. Establish procedures for critical vendors and suppliers to notify the company when a disruption is about to occur.
  • Determine if PRP implementation is necessary if normal management procedures can manage the incident
  • Confirm the “triggers” for implementing response actions
  • Review HR policies and procedures related to pay practices, illness reporting, paid time off (PTO), disciplinary action for not reporting to work etc.
  • Conduct briefings, promote awareness and educate employees on outbreak
  • Determine and validate current priority projects and processes to determine which to suspend, if necessary
  • Direct staff to maintain and backup all business information and working files
  • Acquire necessary equipment to enable key staff to work from home, if needed

Level 2 – Activate modified Pandemic Response Plan

  • Notify staff members of PRP activation and revised operational procedures
  • Staff may be directed to work from remote locations or minimize travel to impacted areas, if feasible. Maintain tracking of all staff, monitor well-being of staff, and identify any additional needs for support and/or resources
  • Direct staff to maintain and backup all business information and working files (data and documents) so that content is accessible to alternates and other staff members

Level 3 – Conduct business as usual with limited on-site staff

  • Only essential employees who cannot work remotely would report on-site
  • Determine and validate current priority projects and processes to determine which to suspend, if necessary
  • Review and establish guidelines for backfilling resources, including leadership and delegations of authority
  • Confirm availability of local and/or remote alternates for critical roles
  • Maintain tracking of all staff, monitor well-being of staff, and identify any needs for support and/or resources
  • Direct staff to maintain and backup all business information and working files so that content is accessible to alternates and other staff members

Level 4 – Initiate an Emergency Service Level with normal levels of operation and minimized staffing

  • Notify internal and external entities with dependencies on critical business operations
  • Re-evaluate current priority projects and processes to determine which to suspend, if necessary
  • Proactively notify corporate executives, team leads, and other contacts of availability and work location, and maintain out of office phone, e-mail notices, and calendars, as appropriate
  • Distribute peripherals (e.g. external disk drives) for home use and distribute as needed
  • Direct all non-essential staff to work at home, if possible

Level 5 - Suspend all non-critical operations examine critical business processes

  • Maintain tracking of all staff, monitor well-being of staff, and identify any needs for support and/or resources
  • Implement modified operations schedule with critical staff. Excuse non-essential staff and place on standby
  • Maintain critical staffing levels and engage emergency contractors
  • Secure facilities

Level 6 - Return to normal operations after situational assessment

  • Communicate resuming operations date with employees and key stakeholders
  • Review time records and pay overtime as required
  • Update and archive file directories, if necessary
  • Update Pandemic Response Plans, as necessary

Learn more about how to keep your employees, operations and reputation safe from COVID-19.

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