Pandemic Planning

Graeme Stuart Jannaway, CBCP, CISA, Hon. FBCI 

While we can’t know the specifics, we know that the direct impact of a pandemic will be on people and people’s perception; but not on physical plant, like a fire or flood; nor technology, like a cyber-security incident. 

Since the impacts will be people-focused, to plan the response to a pandemic we need to understand our:
  • employees;
  • clients;
  • supply chains; and
  • others,
and their likely reactions.  Since diseases are transmitted through direct or indirect contact, breaking the chain of transmission is key to controlling the pandemic.  Two terms, that need to be understood, in regard to pandemics, are isolation and quarantine.

“Isolation and quarantine help protect the public by preventing exposure to people who have or may have a contagious disease.
  • Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.
  • Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick”.[1]
While both are useful public health responses during a pandemic, good pandemic planning can limit their use with respect to your organization.  Like so many things, if the risk (in this case an infectious disease) can be avoided, the impact can be mitigated.

During a business impact analysis and the subsequent resilience strategy design, consider the following:
  • Client facing – could current front counter activities be performed through a call centre, website, or email.
  • Back office, including call centres – could any, or all, of the staff work from home? This may require additional technical resources and training be in place, before the pandemic.
  • Do employees regularly travel, either for business or pleasure?  Consider restricting travel, especially during the early phases of an evolving pandemic.  Use of public transit could also be a contributor to disease transmission.
  • Does the organization culturally encourage ‘presenteeism’ or working while sick or, conversely, are there generous provisions for illness, caregiver and compassionate leave? Are there health and wellness programs to encourage good personal hygiene and timely vaccinations?
  • Do clients require face-to-face interaction (for example with health care providers) or could they transact business by other, remote, means?
  • Will the client demand increase or decrease during a pandemic? Anywhere people gather by choice, such as a shopping mall or community centre, will likely see a drop; while hospitals will see an increase.
  • Could potential or existing clients take their business elsewhere?  “SARS fallout to cost Toronto economy about $1 billion: Conference Board”[2]  The psychological impact of a pandemic can be worse than the physical impact.
Supply Chains
Unlike a local or regional fire, flood, earthquake, storm, etc., pandemics, by definition, can have worldwide impact on supply chains.
  • Lengthy supply chains with more links are potentially exposed to more disruptions than shorter ones.
  • Is it feasible to stockpile supplies during the early stages of a pending pandemic?  Manufacturing assembly lines with long supply lines built on ‘just-in-time’ are particularly vulnerable.
  • What plans do our current suppliers have to deal with a pandemic? Is it contractual? Regardless of the answer, alternate suppliers should be investigated.
Consider for a moment the (usually) unseen army of support/service workers who keep our modern civilization operating, such as cleaners, maintenance personnel, and many more.  Building resilience in a community, before a pandemic occurs, goes a long way to being resilient in the face of a pandemic.

Are contracts given to the lowest cost bidder, with limited (if any) consideration for resilience?

The above are just a few considerations during pandemic planning.  Successful pandemic planning, like all continuity/resiliency planning is a cooperative effort of business continuity, information technology, and human resources with support from a committed and engaged executive.

Canadian resources for pandemic planning include:
Ongoing monitoring of potential pandemics is handled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)[3] and the World Health Organization (WHO)[4] both of which can provided significant additional planning and monitoring resources.

The Author
Graeme Stuart Jannaway, CBCP, CISA, Hon. FBCI 

Building on a B.Sc. in Computer Science from the University of Toronto and 10 years experience in Information Systems, Graeme Jannaway decided in 1986 to specialize in business continuity and information security.  Since that time, he has consulted and taught in Canada, United States and Europe for companies large and small.  Mr. Jannaway is a

  • Certified Business Continuity Planner (CBCP);
  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA);
  • Honorary Fellow, Business Continuity Institute;
  • Member & former President of DRIE Toronto;
  • Immediate past Chair of the Canadian Standards Association Z1600 Emergency & Continuity Management Technical Committee;
  • Non-Voting Subject Expert on the NFPA 1600 Technical Committee; and
  • Member & former Head of the Canadian Delegation to ISO/TC 223 and ISO/TC 292.

In 2013, he received the Canadian Award for Business Continuity Management from Centennial College’s Emergency Management and Public Safety Institute.

Mr. Jannaway has been interviewed on radio and television by the CBC, featured in Report on Business and is listed in Who’s Who in Canada.

DRIE Toronto Digest - Vol 28 Issue 1 January 2020

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