Article: Pandemic Planning
Is your business prepared for the next global
Remember SARS and the physical and emotional
devastation it had on the population? How it affected the local
economy? Some people died and many became afraid of going into public
places, many businesses were hurt.
A little planning and preparation can help your
company survive the next super bug.
Of course no one knows when the next Pandemic
will hit, but history and many experts predict that it's inevitable.
The SARS outbreak came out of nowhere. The rapid transmission of
the virus and subsequent deaths caused public hysteria and a severe
economic down-turn in many business sectors. The actual outbreak
only lasted about 3 months, but the fear and rippling effects lasted
for almost a year. A great number of businesses were caught off
guard - without the means to adequately protect their staff and
facility. Sanitation supplies quickly ran short. How would an outbreak
of 6 months or longer affect you? Developing a Pandemic Plan is
the only way to truly prepare for this future event.
Canada' Public health Agency reported in an Interim report (April
24, 2003) that the outbreak in the GTA proceeded through the following
five major stages:
• Spread of SARS infection within the family of the index
• Amplification of the SARS outbreak through
• Transmission within immediate household
members of the health care workers, patients and
visitors to these hospitals
• Isolated sporadic cases due to limited
transmission in the workplace
• Transmission in an extended family and
associated religious group
Using SARS as a reference
Many organizations have recognized the potential
threat a Pandemic poses and have or are in the process of developing
Pandemic Plans for the next SARS or Avian Flu event. Hospitals,
Municipalities and large organizations have established Teams and
developed plans to deal with such an event. They are cross-training
personnel, in key areas to deal with any labour shortage, and have
developed procedures to handle absenteeism due to illness, fear
or death. They have stockpiled necessary sanitation supplies in
case of disruptions in the supply chain or shortages during the
first phase of the Pandemic. Much of the available surplus will
be earmarked for emergency services such as hospitals, police, fire,
etc. This will make it extremely difficult to acquire the necessary
What is your first line of defense?
SARS taught us a lot about developing Pandemic
processes and procedures. We gained a great deal of insight into
what the immediate and long term needs of clients would be.
In response to staff's fears of contracting airborne
viruses and to help disinfect high touch areas (and more frequently
to prevent the spread of pathogens), many contractors in the Janitorial
sector will be asked to increase their cleaning programs.
Our industry will also have to deal with many
internal challenges. Keeping ourselves safe and coping with illness
in our own staff will be imperative. The ability to acquire long
term sanitation supplies will become extremely difficult and expensive
If not Impossible during this period.
Where do you start?
Good hygiene is something we should all always
be diligent about, but during a Pandemic our first priority must
be to keep employees from contracting the virus and spreading it
to their families, friends and co-workers. The development of an
employee awareness and education program and having products on-hand
for immediate use during the onset of an outbreak is a very good
Although Health and Safety Committees may have
started dealing with the possibility of the next Pandemic and how
they'll handle it, I believe your Janitorial Contractor and your
suppliers should also be prepared. Janitorial Contractors may be
able to handle the additional workload, but if they cannot acquire
the necessary supplies (approved disinfectants, N20 masks, gloves,
hand sanitizer, wipes, etc.), it will be difficult for them to provide
the necessary service you'll need. Regular janitorial and washroom
supplies will also be difficult to acquire. The Ministry of Health
recommends at least 3-4 weeks of “Jan/San” product to
be stored over and above the regular quantities currently on hand.
At least 1 N20 mask per employee per day for 1 month, adequate disposable
of rubber gloves, approved disinfectants, to be used on all touch
areas, and hand sanitizer.
Knowing what you should have is a great start.
Purchasing and stocking these products will enable you to assure
your staff that their welfare is being protected if the need arises.
I like to think of this type of preparation as an insurance hedge
- you hope you never have to use it, but you will be grateful if
you ever do.
For assistance in compiling a list of products
to be stockpiled, I would be more that happy to meet with you to
discuss recommendations or develop a specific plan for your facility.
For assistance with your Pandemic Planning, the Ontario Chamber
of Commerce has an excellent Pandemic Planning Tool kit that can
be downloaded free of charge at: http://occ.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/Pandemic-Planning-Toolkit_2009.pdf
Arsenal Cleaning Services Ltd.