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H1N1 – Seven Steps you can take to Prepare your Small Business 

Working During A Flu PandemicYou have heard about H1N1 and the Flu Pandemic" until you're ready to scream. Having your business prepared in the event of a natural disaster, an accident or a terrorist attack is the wise thing to do.

 

The government has been warning us for sometime that they expect the  U.S. to get hit with another terrorist attack within the next five years. Regardless if it's a pandemic, disaster or attack your business survival is based on your preparedness.

 

Whether the "Flu Pandemic" comes this year or not, you should have a plan in place. It's not if a pandemic is coming it's when. Small businesses are especially susceptible to the negative economic impacts of a flu pandemic. An estimated 25 percent of businesses do not reopen following a major disaster, according to the Institute for Business and Home Safety.

 

Planning from the outset can help offset business losses, and protect your business and your employees when this flu hits. Benefits of planning are:

 

  • Minimize disruption to business activities
  • Protect employees’ health and safety
  • Limit the negative impact to the community, economy and society

Be on the lookout

The symptoms of seasonal and 2009 H1N1 flu virus in people include fever or chills AND cough or sore throat. In addition, symptoms of flu can include runny nose, body aches, headache, tiredness, diarrhea, or vomiting.

 

While no one can predict the severity of the return of H1N1 this season, given that small businesses are the nation's largest employers, and, as the guide states "...the backbone of private sector and their local communities...", the government isn't taking any chances.

 

So to help, in the government's own words, "...ensure the wheels of the nation's economy continue to turn, even if faced with absenteeism, restricted services, and supply chain disruptions...", here are seven H1N1 preparedness steps that the government recommends you review and apply as appropriate to your place of business:

 

  1. Identify a Workplace Coordinator -This person would be the single point of contact for all issues relating to H1N1 and be responsible for reaching out to community health providers and implementing protocols for dealing with ill employees - in advance of any outbreak or impact on the business.
  1. Examine Policies for Leave, Telework and Employee Compensation - Obviously this will vary by business, but the emphasis here is on refreshing yourself and your employees about what your company's health care plans cover in the event of sick leave as a result of H1N1. You should also re-evaluate leave policies to ensure a flexible non-punitive plan that allows for impacted individuals to stay at home. Employees may also need to stay at home to care for sick children or telework in the event of school closures - so be prepared for this by implementing appropriate teleworking infrastructures in advance. 
  1. Determine who will be Responsible for Assisting - Appoint an individual or individuals who will be on-hand to assist ill personnel at your workplace - essentially a "go-to" person, who may be the same as the person chosen as your workplace coordinator. 
  1. Identify Essential Employees, Essential Business Functions, and Other Critical Inputs - Make plans to maintain communication and ensure clear work direction with critical personnel and vendors (and even customers) in the event that the supply chain is broken or other unpredictable disruptions occur. 
  1. Share your Pandemic Plans with Employees and Clearly Communicate Expectations - Consider posting a bi-lingual version of your preparedness plan, leave information, health tips, and other H1N1 awareness resources across all your work locations and online if you operate an Intranet.
  1. Prepare Business Continuity Plans - Absenteeism or other work place changes need to be addressed early on so you can maintain business operations. 
  1. Establish an Emergency Communication Plan - Hopefully your business already has some form of emergency communication plan. If not, document your key business contacts (with back-ups), the chain of communications (including suppliers and customers), and processes for tracking and communicating business and employee status.

 

 ASHI Authorized Training Center Member of the National Preparedness Coalition