On the 30th of January 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially declared a Global Public Health Emergency in the wake of the continued spread of COVID-19 (formerly known as the Coronavirus) throughout Mainland China, Asia and Europe.
The aftermath of this announcement which has included stock market unpredictability, supply chain concerns, decreased hospitality and tourism rates and sustained panic purchasing have emphasised the importance of effective pandemic response planning practices to supplement existing Crisis Management and Business Continuity Management planning.
Has your organisation undertaken a Risk Exposure Assessment?
As part of your organisations proactive response to the, potentially significant, impact on Business as Usual (BAU) due to COVID-19, it is imperative that a Risk Exposure Assessment is conducted. A Risk Exposure Assessment should involve a detailed analysis into the various risks and weaknesses across all relevant business areas which are directly or indirectly associated with a pandemic outbreak. This, in turn, will enable the organisation to understand the potential impacts on the business in the event of a pandemic outbreak and to help develop effective risk mitigation strategies.
Several key factors to consider when conducting a Risk Exposure Assessment are captured below:
- Financial Analysis - Has the organisation prepared financial forecasts which consider factors such as a loss of key customers and revenue, significant increases in staff entitlements and increased expenses?
- Corporate Insurance - Is the current corporate insurance sufficient and does the organisation have any protection options to safeguard against a loss of key customers via the activation of a force majeure clause?
- Supply Chain - Has the organisation reviewed whether any key suppliers are located in countries which are considered to be “at risk” and have the impacts of losing key suppliers on BAU been assessed?
- Employee Travel - Has the organisation confirmed whether any employees have recently travelled to countries considered to be “at risk” and does the corporate travel policy adequately cover pandemic conditions?
- Employee Resources - Does the organisation have an up to date staff capabilities matrix which clearly defines which employees have the skills and competencies to backfill alternative positions and responsibilities if required?
- Working Remotely - Does the organisation have the internal maturity and IT infrastructure to enable employees to work remotely in the event of a potential pandemic outbreak?
Critical Pandemic Response Planning considerations:
To expedite the proactive management of the COVID-19 Global Public Health Emergency, it is imperative that your organisation considers the following key components in developing a pandemic response plan which provides the structure and guidelines for the organisations active management of a pandemic and which prioritises active management of the crisis and the continuation of BAU activities:
- Internal and External Context - Research and assess all internal and external dependencies and market conditions to help guide the organisations approach to managing a potential pandemic outbreak.
- Roles and Responsibilities - Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of executives and senior leaders with regards to leading the organisations approach to managing a potential pandemic outbreak.
- Pandemic Communications Plan - Develop a formal communications plan which outlines the chain of responsibility for all internal communications and for communicating with critical customers, suppliers, insurance companies, regulators and public health organisations.
- Employee Self-Quarantine Guidelines - Clearly define all self-quarantine requirements, including the guidelines for employees who have come into contact with someone who has since self-quarantined.
- Employee Illness Identification Escalation Process - Develop a suspected illness notification form to be completed by all relevant staff to help minimise the spread of the illness in the event of a confirmed case.