Tom Pettibone April 29, 2009 10:27 am

Today, over 150 people have died from the swine flu and thousands of cases are reported in the news. This brings to mind the 1918 flu pandemic that killed up to 50 million people. While clearly a cause for alarm, there is speculation and hope this will turn out to be only a scare and not a true pandemic. Individuals and Governments around the world are taking measures to contain the spread of the virus and drug companies are ramping up antiviral production. But clearly, a pandemic can wreak havoc on the operations of companies not prepared with a Business Continuity Plan, jeopardizing their existence. Whether or not you deliver product around the world, if your critical operations are centralized in one or two locations, you run the risk of severe business disruption from a flu pandemic. In fear of this airborne virus, employees will stay at home whether or not they are sick. Your machines will run but there will be no-one operating them. In the 1918 pandemic, the absentee records were striking at dozens of shipyards around New England, . At the Glichrest yard 54% of the workers stayed at home; at Freeport, 57%; and at Groton Iron Works, 58.3%. Nobody came to work, even those that weren’t sick; they were all afraid. In 2003, HP closed a Toronto facility for 10 days because of SARS. A Business Continuity plan and capability will enable you to run and maintain your business operations if one or two sites are shut. Essentially, the capability and capacity to continue critical operations in three or more separate sites gives you the flexibility to quickly shift operations to locations where the flu hasn’t hit. It would be wise and responsible to assess your vulnerability to business disruption through a Business Impact Analysis. Quickly done, this will give you the information you need to determine whether or not you need better coverage.