The outbreak of swine flu is a reason to test, review and update pandemic response plans in facilities, says Robert Lang, assistant vice president for strategic security and safety at Kennesaw State University. “Like the president said, this isn’t a cause for alarm,” he says. “But it’s one hell of an exercise.”
Facility executives should determine which facilities are essential, then ensure that personnel are available keep those facilities functioning. That may mean cross training staff from other functions. It’s also important to ensure that the plan addresses circumstances that may arise from flu strains other than avian influenza – perhaps a strain that spreads quickly and causes many people to become ill without leading to widespread fatalities.
When should a facility move beyond a review of plans? That depends on circumstances. The plan should have triggers for taking various sorts of actions based on events. At each stage, it’s important to avoid over-reacting. For example, there have been reports of facilities scrubbing down rooms with disinfectants because an infected person was in the facility. “That’s a lot of effort if you don’t even know where that person went,” says Lang.
One risk that all facility executives should be aware of is the harm that can be done by rumors. “Someone coughs, and suddenly everyone’s got swine flu,” says Lang. “The public information people need to be very proactive in getting the correct information out there. You’ve got to quash rumors and stay with the facts.”
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