Spring is in the air.
When I first wrote about this last October, a few colleagues thought the post was for the birds.
Today the New York Times weighs in, with an informative article about what some businesses are doing to get ready for a potential pandemic.
“I tell companies to use their imagination to think of all the unintended consequences,” said Mark Layton, global leader for enterprise risk services at Deloitte & Touche in New York. “Will suppliers be able to deliver goods? How about services they’ve outsourced â€” are they still reliable?”
Experts say that many essential functions would have to continue despite the likelihood of a depleted work force and more limited transportation. Up to 40 percent of employees could be sick at one time.
One company in Hong Kong learned from the SARS outbreak:
Among the prepared, HSBC, a global bank that started as the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank and remains the dominant bank in Hong Kong, has an especially detailed plan for avian flu, drawing on its experience with SARS. The company has been making preparations for employees to work from home, but is also preparing to divide work among multiple sites, an approach that appeared in only 37 percent of the plans in the American Chamber survey.
The article also references a Deloitte & Touche survey on business readiness, a summary of which is here.
It may be more palatable for some businesses to focus on general contingency planning. Response plans for an anthrax-type scare could also be used in an avian flu outbreak.
That the flu is arriving to the United States now appears more of a when than an if. The worldwide human death toll from contact with infected birds may be around 100. When or if mutation happens that would permit human-to-human infection? That’s anyone’s guess.
They are coming, they just may not be too welcome this year: