Companies should not overreact to the outbreak of H1N1 influenza (swine flu), but rather take it as a wake-up call and review and test their pandemic response plans, leading experts have advised.
Richard De Lotto, principal research analyst at Gartner, said business continuity management (BCM) and disaster recovery (DR) professionals and other stakeholders should use concern over the swine flu as an chance to prevent their organisations becoming victims of uncertainty, panic, misinformation and a lack of preparedness.
Gartner analysts said a true pandemic could cause absenteeism rates of 40 per cent or higher for organisations and their business partners and suppliers, resulting in severe operational disruptions. For this reason, they said, enterprises must recognise the need to develop and implement pandemic response planning.
Ken McGee, vice president and Gartner fellow, said that in today's global business environment, business professionals must include extremely specific elements within their response plans that will overcome their organisation's operational vulnerabilities - elements which are not confined to specific geographic locations.
"These vulnerabilities also exist in the next town, adjacent states, neighbouring countries, or even on the other side of the planet, where their suppliers, customers, external professional service providers and so on are located."
Gartner said stakeholders should review audit pandemic response plans to ensure they:
· Identify existing and projected critical skills shortages
· Initiate necessary cross-training, testing or certification of personnel
· Ensure that cross-trained personnel have the appropriate system/applications access rights
· Determine which business operations are sustainable, and at what level, and the likely downtime for normal business operations during periods with absenteeism rates of 40 per cent or higher
· Immediately initiate rigorous, ongoing and well-documented testing to isolate and remediate identified problem areas
· Prepare for travel restrictions to be significant in the event of an epidemic and near-universal in the event of a pandemic
· Implement a communications program that ensures all personnel are aware of the enterprise's pandemic response plans, as well as measures they can take to limit the spread of the disease -including practices as simple yet effective as regular hand-washing