Building resilience through business continuity and pandemic planning

(for non-Government organisations)

Introduction

This kit has been developed to assist you in preparing your organisation for a potential human influenza pandemic. The kit will help you understand what a human influenza pandemic is. It explains the impact a pandemic could have on your organisation, the community and the provision of services, and how important it is to have a plan in place to help your organisation cope.

It provides some practical tools and information to assist you in thinking about and developing your pandemic plan.

Experience has shown that preparedness is key to organisational and community recovery from the impacts of disasters, so investing in preparations now will pay off in the future.

More Information

Health information

For more information on pandemic influenza visit the Department of Health and Ageing website www.healthemergency.gov.au or www.flupandemic.gov.au or call the Commonwealth health Hotline for Swine Influenza on 180 2007 or contact your state or territory health department.

World Health Organisation

For information relating to the World Health Organisation visit the WHO website.

Information for travellers

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is regularly updating its travel advice for Mexico and other countries affected by Human Swine Influenza. Information for travellers can be access on the Smart Traveller website, or by calling 1300 555 135. for overseas consular assistance call +61 2 6261 3305.

Trusted Information Sharing Network

For information on the Critical Infrastructure Protection (Australian Government and Australian business community working together) and information for the wider business community on security and organisational resilience, visist the TISN website.

About Pandemic Influenza

Why is bird flu a concern?

Bird flu, also known as ‘avian influenza’ is caused by a virus that affects wild birds and domestic poultry like chickens, ducks and geese. The bird flu virus could mutate into a form that is easily transmitted among humans. When this occurs a human influenza pandemic virus is created.

The current bird flu strain, H5N1, occurring overseas has been responsible for a high death rate in bird populations. Isolated cases of the H5N1 virus infecting and causing illness and death in humans have also been reported. These cases have predominantly arisen from close contact between humans and infected domestic birds, but there is no current evidence of efficient human-to-human transmission.

Scientists and health professionals, however, warn that while the H5N1 bird flu virus is circulating in the bird population there is potential for a human pandemic influenza to develop. This is the eventuality that governments, the World Health Organisation (WHO), medical experts and others are preparing for through a number of measures.

What do you need to know about pandemic influenza?

An influenza pandemic is a disease outbreak that occurs when:

  • A new strain of influenza virus emerges to which no-one is immune
  • The virus causes disease in humans
  • The virus is spread easily between humans.

In the absence of immunity, a new influenza strain could spread rapidly, causing epidemics or pandemics, infecting large numbers of people with possibly fatal results.

A pandemic or worldwide outbreak of a new influenza virus has the potential to infect 25–30 per cent of the world’s population. WHO warns an influenza pandemic will be unlike any disaster we have experienced in recent times. It will arise quickly and may occur in several waves; lasting several months or more.

How could an influenza pandemic affect your organisation?

If it occurs, a human influenza pandemic is likely to have significant impacts on all organisations, including:

  • Diminished resources—health care services may not be able to provide direct care in some cases. There may also be very high staff and volunteer absence rates for some periods during the pandemic
  • Reduced capacity to respond—a pandemic could have direct effects such as high staff absenteeism, and indirect effects such as the closure of schools and child care centres. At the peak of the pandemic, between 30 and 50 per cent of staff and volunteers may be absent from work due to illness, fear of contamination, caring responsibilities or restrictions on movement
  • Changes in demand—demand could increase for some community services for both existing clients and new client groups. Demands for other services may reduce
  • Higher levels of uncertainty, fear and anxiety—these would be expected to be much higher during a pandemic because of people’s concerns about the risk of infection to themselves and their families
  • Prolonged duration of the impact—most emergencies are short and contained. A pandemic may, however, last for several months.

In the event of a pandemic, it is likely that small organisations with limited resources will particularly feel the impact. Even the loss of a few key employees, volunteers or suppliers has the potential to cause major disruptions to an organisation’s ability to function.

With these factors in mind, non-government organisations need to develop business continuity plans and to work closely with local government to manage the effects. Additional pressure may be felt by organisations in rural and remote communities due to isolation and limited resources.

How is the Australian Government preparing for an influenza pandemic?

Australia is well prepared to respond to an influenza pandemic. The Australian Government is constantly monitoring the situation overseas in conjunction with international agencies and health experts.

The Australian Government’s health approach to managing an influenza pandemic in Australia is available in the Australian Health Management Plan for Pandemic Influenza, prepared by the Department of Health and Ageing. The plan contains information about what the Australian Government is doing to prepare for a pandemic.

If an influenza pandemic occurs overseas, border control measures will be implemented to delay the spread of the pandemic to Australia for as long as possible. Comprehensive disease control plans are in place in the event that the pandemic reaches Australia. The Department of Health and Ageing maintains surveillance networks so that diseases can be identified quickly. There is also a national stockpile of medicines and equipment that could be used to reduce the spread of the virus. Increased laboratory capacity and contractual arrangements are in place with manufacturers to ensure Australia has access to a vaccine once one is developed.

National Action Plan for Human Influenza Pandemic

The National Action Plan for Human Influenza Pandemic has been developed in cooperation with the Australian Government, state and territory and local governments. This plan outlines how all levels of government will work together to protect Australia against the threat of an influenza pandemic and support the Australian community should one occur. More information is available on the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet website.

The Australian Government is also working closely with neighbouring countries in an effort to slow the spread of a pandemic overseas. The likelihood of an influenza pandemic reaching our shores is closely monitored through liaison with WHO and other governments.

The Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) is responsible for addressing and responding to the potential social and community impacts of an influenza pandemic. This includes providing information to non-government organisations to support the ongoing provision of services to the community in the event of a pandemic.

Who will tell you if there is an influenza pandemic?

The Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing has prepared a comprehensive communication strategy for informing and advising the general public, businesses and key health stakeholders, should a pandemic develop.

Information will also be available through state and territory government websites. These organisations have an essential role in pandemic preparedness and will be key sources of information and assistance in the event of an influenza pandemic.

In the event of an influenza pandemic, health officials will be responsible for issuing information and warnings to the public. These will be released through the media and official websites.

The Department of Health and Ageing Communicable Disease hotline will provide a free call telephone information service 1800 004 599. Information about Australian Government assistance will be available on the Disaster Assist website. State and territory health departments will also provide information about local arrangements in their state/territory.

Business Continuity Planning and Resilience

Why plan NOW for a pandemic?

Every organisation will benefit from a business continuity plan to improve their organisational and community resilience to adverse events such as natural disasters, terrorist threats, human error, product recall or an influenza pandemic. A business continuity plan provides an opportunity to not only plan for, respond to, and recover from specific events, but to develop more robust operational processes to improve overall business operations and processes.

To ensure that you are prepared to meet the challenge of a pandemic, it is vital that you plan and prepare in advance for such an event. Developing a business continuity plan now will help you and your organisation, if a pandemic occurs, and will assist you in the recovery phase.

In the lead up to, and during a pandemic, your staff and volunteers will likely be concerned about, and preoccupied with, the well-being of their families. Their commitment or ability to work may not be their primary concern. Staff, volunteers and clients will likely feel reassured by your pandemic planning activities and will be pleased to know you are thinking ahead and preparing as best you can.

Unlike most disasters that are short, sharp and localised, a pandemic will be widespread, last for several months and come in waves. You can expect that at the peak of a pandemic, between 30 and 50 per cent of staff and volunteers to be absent from work due to illness, fear of contamination, caring responsibilities or restrictions of movement. As more people become ill, absenteeism will increase. This will have a profound effect on your organisation and its ability to continue operating, especially at a time when the particular services your organisation provides may be in even greater demand.

Essential community services

If your organisation provides essential community services, it is important that you have arrangements in place to enable it to continue to deliver these services as best you can. This might be developing flexible approaches to deliver your services while subject to limitations such as restriction of movement and disruptions to supplies. These pre-organised arrangements will help minimise disruptions to services to some of the most vulnerable people in the community, and assist overall community recovery.

Non-essential community services

Organisations not providing essential services may need to consider and plan for scaling down operations or closing for a period of time, or alternatively supporting other organisations that provide essential community services.

Seven Key Steps in Planning

Seven steps towards business continuity and organisational resilience

When your organisation is facing a crisis, there are a number of common questions and actions that should be considered, regardless of the type of incident. The following flow chart and steps detail the processes an organisation might take in developing a business continuity plan and organisational resilience.

Summary diagram of the following seven steps

Step 1 - Understand your organisation’s business

  • Identify your key business activities/services and rank them in order of importance
    • Importance should be assessed in terms of ability to meet your organisation’s objectives
    • The importance of activities may differ at various times during the year
  • Distinguish between essential and non-essential activities/services
  • Identify individuals who deliver essential activities/services.

Step 2 - What are the risks to your organisation?

  • Consider the things that might impact on your organisation’s ability to meet its objectives
    (e.g. pandemic influenza, fire, flood, storms, product recall, sabotage, terrorism, explosion, vehicle accident, etc.)
  • How likely is it that these risks will occur?
  • What impacts will the risk events have on your organisation, if they do occur?
  • Will they also affect others in the community – your suppliers, your customers/clients, other community organisations?
  • If so who will be affected and how?

Step 3 - What actions can you take to reduce the risk or its impact before it occurs?

  • Can you control the risk?
  • Can you put arrangements in place to reduce the impact, even if the risk event does occur
    (e.g. if the risk is fire, you could store all key documents in a fire proof safe)?
  • What level of risk are you willing to accept?

Step 4 - What response actions can you take if the risk occurs?

  • How would you respond immediately?
  • What would you need to do within the first day, week, or month?
  • Who is responsible for which key tasks?
  • What activities could you put on hold?
  • Could you gain assistance from other community organisations or could you help them?

Step 5 - Prepare and implement an action plan

  • Prepare for all the actions you identified in Step 4
  • Document your plan and procedures to ensure those employees available know what to do
  • Use checklists and quick reference guides, and have these handy, if needed (at home and at work)
  • Set up teams and list their responsibilities
  • Your action plan will help you test your arrangements.

Step 6 - Tell your staff and customers/clients about your plan

  • Communicate your plan to staff and volunteers and others who would benefit from knowing
  • Share your plan with other community organisations.

Step 7 - Test and review your plan

  • Review your environment to see if there are any new risks or if there are any new ways to reduce the impact of existing risks (e.g. new software developed to protect your IT system)
  • Have your organisation’s key activities changed?
  • Testing your plan will help identify if you have overlooked anything in your planning. It will also let you know if your action plan is practical and will help ensure your employees are aware of what they need to do.

Tips to Help Protect Your Staff, Volunteers and Clients

Influenza is caused by a virus and is generally spread from person to person when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Undertaking infection control measures is one of the best ways to minimise infection spread. These simple, common sense practices will help you, your employees and volunteers reduce influenza infection.

Hand washing

  • Adopt hygienic hand washing practices, particularly after coughing, sneezing or using tissues
  • Keep hands away from the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Ensure adequate supplies of hand hygiene products are available. This should be a high planning priority as there may be interruption to the supply or shortages of soap and disposable hand towels during a pandemic
  • Consider installing conveniently located dispensers of alcohol-based hand rub
  • Have a supply of tissues available and provide no-touch receptacles for used tissue disposal
  • Provide soap and disposable towels for hand washing near sinks.

Coughing and sneezing

  • Cover nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing (preferably with a disposable single use tissue)
  • Dispose of tissues in the nearest waste receptacle after use. Do not store them in your pockets
  • Wash your hands after coughing, sneezing or touching used tissues.

Personal protective equipment

  • Health authorities will provide guidance on appropriate equipment. The most commonly used equipment would be masks and protective barriers
  • Disposable surgical masks worn by those who are ill will help prevent exposing others to respiratory secretions. Dispose of masks as soon as they become moist or after coughing or sneezing, and wash your hands thoroughly
  • Keeping at least one metre apart from others will reduce the spread of the virus, as airborne particles do not generally carry beyond this distance
  • Protective barriers such as perspex or glass may provide useful protection for people such as front counter staff, who have frequent face-to-face contact with members of the public where one metre separation is not practical.

A Case Study

UnitingCare Wesley Adelaide Inc. Business Continuity Planning Case Study

In early 2006, UnitingCare Wesley Adelaide Inc. (UCW Adelaide) recognised the need to prepare for the possible impacts of an influenza pandemic or sustained disease outbreak. UCW Adelaide initially based its planning on information on the internet, and then developed plans that uniquely suited UCW Adelaide.

UCW Adelaide originally thought it could simply ‘fill in’ a continuity planning template. Instead, it found that developing an organisational continuity plan was a very interactive process.

In developing its business continuity plan, UCW Adelaide took the following steps to ensure it is prepared for the impact of a human influenza pandemic.

1. Planning in phases

To help think about which activities might be necessary during a pandemic, UCW Adelaide developed a series of phases and considered the activities that should occur in each phase:

  • Build up phase (prior to a pandemic alert)
  • Alert phase (when a pandemic is imminent)
  • Active phase (when the pandemic is having an effect)
  • Recovery (trying to get back to normal).

2. Reviewing all programs

UCW Adelaide reviewed all its programs to determine which it would continue to operate and which could stop during a pandemic. It considered this in the context of a number of scenarios of different duration (i.e. days, weeks or in a number of waves). It also considered a scenario where it was significantly affected and another that had minimal effect.

From these scenarios UCW Adelaide concluded:

  • Some activities were needed (e.g. raising standards of hygiene) and there were many ways of achieving this (e.g. hand washing instructions in bathrooms, replacing linen towels with paper towels, developing cleaning specifications for all working sites, regardless of who is doing the cleaning)
  • It would be beneficial to eliminate some risks to the organisation now by introducing hygiene arrangements gently, increasing these as the need arises. In undertaking this review, UCW Adelaide considered the relevant legislation.

3. Considering their financial position

UCW Adelaide is undertaking activities to ensure continued funding will be available to it in a pandemic. These activities include:

  • Discussing with funding organisations how funding might be affected under contractual arrangements if services are unable to be delivered
  • Discussing with their bank about the length of time they would be prepared to continue financing the organisation in the event that electronic fund transfer deposits were not working
  • Reviewing insurance coverage to ensure it was covered for key risks in a pandemicExamining contracts with both government and clients and identifying where any modifications might be needed. For example, including a clause with personal care services that allows them to vary the hours of care provided in a crisis.

4. Pandemic management and staff wellbeing

UCW Adelaide has appointed a Pandemic Manager and is putting a number of arrangements in place to manage staffing issues, including:

  • Deciding to pay all staff four weeks sick leave if they are ill
  • Developing care plans for vulnerable staff and clients, for example identifying staff who are single parents, and understanding their support needs
  • Upgrading staff contact details through the human resources area, actively checking and re-confirming the accuracy of telephone, email, mobile and street address information. This will allow the organisation to follow up with and support staff, ensuring important information reaches them
  • Working on how to manage ill staff, including a policy to send ill employees and staff home and monitoring staff who have been sent home to ensure they return to work as soon as they are well, while ensuring uninfected staff will not be exposed to unsafe working conditions
  • Identifying staff with specialised training or skills. For example, there may be staff with some medical training that could assist in some way
  • Keeping staff informed about the spread of the virus overseas and of any cases in Australia, should they occur
  • Identifying (with sensitivity) staff that may be particularly vulnerable, for example those who have experienced previous trauma
  • Providing counselling for those who need it, rather than for everybody.

5. Staff management and training

By altering the usual authority and delegation levels, UCW Adelaide is providing more staff with the appropriate authority to take action and make decisions when other staff may be sick. In addition, it plans to cross-train staff on a range of functions.

6. Service delivery

UCW Adelaide is considering alternative ways of service delivery to minimise contact, such as moving from face-to-face to telephone or web based support, where possible.

7. Communication

The development of an internal communication strategy will ensure that staff is kept well‑informed about any cases of the virus and its spread. This will involve regular announcements from the CEO and, if necessary, information will be printed and hand delivered to staff if there is a break down in electronic forms of communication.

8. Recovery

During recovery, the ultimate aim will be for the organisation to return to normal as soon as possible. Reputation management will be important for UCW during a pandemic and non-government organisations will need to work together. UCW Adelaide has identified a number of questions they need to ask in preparation for the recovery effort:

  • If there is a 5–10 per cent drop in gross domestic product as some observers are indicating, then what will the flow on effects be?
  • Will it continue to receive government funding for its services?
  • How easy would it be to take out loans to replace or build up businesses?
  • What would be the impact on donations and fundraising?

UCW Adelaide acknowledges the importance of recovery and planning is ongoing.

More Information

Australian Government

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet – National Action Plan for Human Pandemic influenza
http://www.pmc.gov.au/publications/pandemic

Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research – A Business Continuity Guide for Australian Businesses
http://www.industry.gov.au/

Department of Health and Ageing
http://www.health.gov.au/pandemic

Disaster Assist – information about Australian Government recovery assistance
http://www.disasterassist.gov.au

Health Services Australia
http://www.avianinfluenza.com.au

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
http://www.daff.gov.au

Comcare
http://www.comcare.gov.au

Emergency Management Australia
http://www.ema.gov.au

Australian Local Government Association – Emergency management
http://www.alga.asn.au/policy/emergman

State and Territory Government
Pandemic Planning

New South Wales
http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/publichealth/pandemic/index.asp

Victoria
http://www.health.vic.gov.au/ideas/regulations/vic_influenza

Queensland
http://www.qld.gov.au/

South Australia
http://www.health.sa.gov.au/pandemicinfluenza/

Western Australia
http://www.health.wa.gov.au/
http://www.dpc.wa.gov.au

Tasmania
http://www.dhhs.tas.gov.au/healthyliving/pandemic

Northern Territory
http://www.nt.gov.au/health

Australian Capital Territory
http://www.health.act.gov.au/c/health

International

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
http://www.cdc.gov

World Health Organization
http://www.who.int

Notes on how to complete the workbook

Introduction

This workbook has been developed to assist you in preparing your organisation for a crisis, such as a potential human influenza pandemic. It provides some practical tools, templates and information to assist you in thinking about and developing your business continuity plan.

The workbook should be used in conjunction with the resources in the ‘Being Prepared’ folder. The resources will help you understand what a human influenza pandemic is, the impact a pandemic could have on your organisation and the community, and how important it is to have a plan in place to help your organisation manage the crisis.

What is business continuity?

Business continuity is about identifying the risks that might affect your organisation’s key activities and developing strategies to reduce the impact of those identified risks. It also includes developing an action plan should the risk event occur so that you can continue delivering your key services or producing your key products.

What is a crisis?

A crisis is an adverse event that is not part of the usual operations of an organisation, community or country. A crisis can result in:

  • additional resource requirements (e.g. people, equipment, finances) to manage the event
  • an organisation operating at different levels of capability (with different levels of staff and volunteer capacity)
  • changes in the demand for services that are offered to the community
  • use of alternative working conditions or financial means to continue to provide services.

Crisis, risk and business continuity planning will all help ensure your organisation is capable of managing and responding to different demands during a pandemic.

Your organisation needs to plan how to continue operations (or when to stop or scale back ‘non-essential’ services) and how to support the response and recovery activities of individuals, communities and other businesses that are crucial to your operations.

Your plans and actions will become critically important during a pandemic as community members may rely on your services for their recovery.

Building resilience through business continuity and pandemic planning

Governments all around the world have been investing significantly in planning for a response to an influenza pandemic. History supports the fact that it is ‘more likely than not’ that a pandemic will occur. Although it is difficult to predict the full extent of the impact of a pandemic (or when and where it may occur), it is a certainty that the more time and thought invested in the preparation for a pandemic will ensure a more effective and stronger recovery.

Why plan NOW for a pandemic? “So what does it mean to me?”

Every organisation will benefit from a business continuity plan to improve its organisational and community resilience to adverse events such as natural disasters, terrorist threats, human error, product recall or an influenza pandemic. A business continuity plan provides you an opportunity not only to plan for, respond to, and recover from specific events, but to develop more robust operational processes to improve your overall business operations and processes.

It is important to acknowledge that effective business continuity planning is not just about crises, but can also be about recognising the smaller day-to-day risks that your organisation faces.

By taking the time to assess what key services your organisation delivers, you might find you can improve your everyday management and achieve stronger outcomes for the community.

No one can plan fully for a crisis. However, through risk and business continuity planning, you can develop plans for events that could affect the viability of your operations.

To ensure you are prepared to meet the challenge of a pandemic, it is vital that you plan and prepare in advance for such an event. You may not have staff or volunteers during a pandemic to do this work, so the more you do now the less you will have to do in a crisis.

Developing a business continuity plan now will help you and your organisation, if a pandemic does occur, and will also assist you in the recovery phase.

Seven key steps in planning

Seven steps towards business continuity and organisational resilience

When your organisation is preparing for a crisis, there are a number of common questions and actions that should be considered, regardless of the type of event. The following flow chart and steps detail the processes an organisation might follow in developing a business continuity plan to improve organisational resilience.


Step 1—Understand your organisation’s business

The objective of this step is to identify your key business activities/services.

Using the Step 1 template:

  • List (in order of priority) your organisation’s key internal/external business activities/services
  • Identify whether these are essential services
  • What your organisation depends on, in order to undertake these activities.

Key business activities/services

Your organisation may provide a range of business activities/services – key activities/services are those that you spend the most time or resources on and that contribute the most towards meeting your overall objective (e.g. home delivery of meals or your payroll).

Rank your key business activities/services in order of priority.

Things to consider:
  • Priority should be assessed in terms of ability to meet your organisation’s key objectives
  • The priority of activities may differ at various times during the year.

Essential and non-essential activities/services

  • Distinguish between essential and non-essential activities/services during a pandemic or other crisis. For example, essential services might include provision of food to vulnerable people, while non-essential services might include social outings.
Question (example) Yes No
a. Is the individual, family, group or community likely to be vulnerable in
the event of an influenza pandemic?
Y  
b. Will they be at significant risk if the service or infrastructure is
not provided?
Y  
c. Is there any alternative to provide the service?   N
= Essential Service

If you answer yes to (a), yes to (b) and no to (c), the service or social/community infrastructure is likely to be essential.

If you answer yes to (c), then the service may be non-essential (for your organisation) as the activity/service can be provided elsewhere or can be met in another way.

If your organisation provides essential services it is important that plans are established to continue these services and the operation of your organisation.

Identify what support your essential business activities/services depend on

  • Consider key equipment, transport, IT systems, volunteers, and communications
  • Consider circumstances that may require an increase, decrease or adaptation of services (e.g. Internally—number of skilled staff, access to your IT systems, authority for decisions and access to finances, purchase of stores. Externally—availability of service contracts, access to facilities and venues, purchase of medical supplies).

Step 2—Identify the risks

The objective of this step is to identify risks that might impact on your organisation’s ability to meet its key objectives (in the event of an influenza pandemic).

Using the Step 2 template:

  • Identify risks
  • The impacts they may have on your organisation
  • The likelihood of their occurrence
  • Rank the risks in order of priority.
Things to consider:
  • Key source of risks (e.g. personnel, economic, financial, commercial/legal, IT, Occupational Health & Safety, business interruption, security, fire, flood, storms, product recall, sabotage, terrorism, explosion, vehicle accident, etc)
  • In a pandemic, consider what may happen in the community in terms of increased demand on your services, decreased workforce, reduced availability of childcare, transport etc
  • Consider the implications of not delivering essential services or losing supplier services and support (during a pandemic) and the effects on your organisation
  • Consider how limited funds may affect your operations
  • Does the organisation have cash reserves (e.g. access to money could become problematic if credit facilities are limited)?
  • What arrangements do you have in place to protect staff from becoming ill, or offer services through new channels (e.g. face to face counselling replaced by phone counselling)?

Impact on your organisation

  • Analyse the impacts of a pandemic on your organisation. What areas would be affected first? How severe would the effects be?
  • What impacts will the risk events (e.g. absenteeism) have on your organisation, if they do occur?
  • Will they also affect others in the community—your suppliers, your customers/clients, other community organisations? If so who will be affected and how (e.g. an inability to deliver a service may lead to increased pressure on other community organisations)?

Likelihood of occurrence

  • How likely is it that the risks will occur (e.g. high, medium, low)?
  • What could happen, when, how and where could a risk occur?

Rate in order of priority

Rate your risks in order of priority from highest to lowest (e.g. 1, 2, 3, etc), taking into account the impact it would have on your organisation. The order of priority is likely to change as the impact (of the risk) increases or decreases.

Risk Management

Risk management is about identifying potential risks to your organisation and assessing their likelihood and consequences. All organisations including non-government organisations should include risk management as part of their planning cycle. There are many models of risk management available and most follow the Australia/New Zealand Standard AS/NZ4360:2006. You can find more information at www.standards.org.au


Step 3—Minimise the impact of the risks

The objective of this step is to identify what actions you can take to reduce the risks and their impacts before the event occurs.

Using the Step 3 template:

  • List the prioritised risks identified in Step 2
  • Identify what actions/treatments your organisation can take to minimise the impact of the risk before the event occurs
  • Identify what key documents/resources you require and who’s responsible.

Action/Treatment

When considering the risks and impacts identified and prioritised:

  • Analyse the degree of control you have over their impact
  • Consider stakeholder needs
  • Identify the acceptable levels of risk
  • Can you put arrangements in place to reduce the impact on people, facilities, telecommunications and information systems before the risk event occurs (e.g. if the risk is loss of critical information [due to fire], you could store key documents in a fire proof safe. If the risk is bad publicity you could put a communication plan and media spokesperson in place; or if the risk is loss of facilities you can plan for an alternative location)?

When

  • Consider putting plans in place to minimise the impact of risks in advance of any occurring (e.g. high absenteeism due to influenza is a ‘risk’ which may lead to an inability to deliver services, which is an ‘impact’.) This is more likely to occur in the winter months so you want to minimise the impact by increasing casual staff/volunteers during the winter months as well as providing the flu injection
  • Consider the appropriate time to activate various plans for minimising the impacts of risks.

Supporting documents/resources

  • What documents do you need and where are they kept?
  • Who has access to them?
  • Is there a hardcopy, if so, where is it kept?
  • Are documents up to date and checked regularly?

Who’s responsible?

The delivery of services may rely on other organisations or individuals

  • Who is responsible for what tasks?
  • Who is the back-up person?
  • Who needs to be informed and what effect will your action have on other service areas?
  • A phone list can be a useful tool to have ready.
Things to consider:
  • Updating sick, personal and carers’ leave policies so employees know their entitlements during a pandemic
  • Enhancing IT capability may provide potential for employees to work from different locations and at flexible times. What would the impacts be if these key support mechanisms were not available for a period of time?
  • Planning for a sudden 30 to 50 per cent reduction in your staff or volunteers? In a pandemic you should plan for staff absences due to personal and/or family illness, quarantine, government, school, business and public transportation closures.

Step 4—Identify response actions if risks occur

The objective of this step is to identify response actions your organisation can take if the risk event occurs.

Using the Step 4 template:

  • List the prioritised risks identified in Step 2
  • I dentify what actions/treatments your organisation can take if the risk event occurs
  • I dentify what key documents/resources you require and who’s responsible.

Action/treatment

  • How would you respond immediately?
  • What activities could you put on hold?
  • Could you gain assistance from other community organisations or could you help them?
  • If the organisation is not an essential service provider consider at what point it would be appropriate to scale back activities or to temporarily close
  • Plan to stay open if providing essential services
  • If remaining open business continuity planning might also include considering risks to employees and volunteers and your duty of care as an employer.

When

  • What would you need to do within the first hours, day, week, or month?

Supporting documents/resources

  • What resources are required for the treatments of risk?
  • Document your plan and procedures to ensure those available know what to do
  • Do you have a communication strategy ready?

Who’s responsible?

  • Who is responsible for what tasks?
Things to consider:
  • Modify activities to limit the spread of an influenza pandemic and communicate your new policies (e.g. avoid contact with sick people, stay home if you have flu symptoms and increase hygiene practices in the workplace such as washing hands, covering mouth when coughing etc)
  • Ensure supplies of tissues, gloves, masks, soap or alcohol cleansers and hands-free disposal bins are available
  • Restrict gatherings in staff rooms, stagger shifts, or conduct meetings via teleconferencing rather than face to face
  • Increase hygiene and OH&S practices for staff delivering services outside the organisation and those with public contact
  • Monitor the media for health and emergency advice.

Step 5—Prepare and implement an action plan

The objective of this step is to start preparing and implementing an action plan, using the information already identified in the previous steps.

Using the Step 5 template:

  • Begin consolidating your plan.

Organisation Details

Fill in your organisation’s details.

Key Response Team—Contacts and Roles

  • Gain support from the Board/Executive and identify who in the organisation will be in the response team
  • Set up team, contact details and list their responsibilities and back-up support.

External contact details

Identify all external contacts/stakeholders your organisation deals with and ensure their contact details are up to date.

Team procedures

This template will help you prepare and implement your plan based on the information you have identified in Steps 3 and 4. Consider breaking your plan into groups/teams and have a template for each team. The team procedure identifies the action required, responsibility and the supporting documents and resources.


Step 6—Communicate your plan

The objective of this step is to ensure your organisation informs staff, volunteers and clients of your plan, including actions and policies.

Using the Step 6 template:

  • Detail your communication plan for staff and volunteers and others who would benefit from knowing.
Things to consider:
  • Tell your staff and customers/clients you have a plan
  • How and when would you communicate the details of the plan to staff and volunteers and others who would benefit from knowing
  • Ensure all communications about pandemic preparedness are appropriate for your employees, volunteers and clients so they can understand the arrangements. Identify those with special needs and address their requirements in preparedness planning
  • Consider the physical location of plans, contact lists and key documents and ensure access is not restricted (within the boundaries of privacy limitations)
  • Collaborate with other organisations and share learnings from developing pandemic continuity plans
  • Consider assigning a point of contact with local and/or state and territory emergency, health and insurance agencies to maximise understanding and communication about other plans and what can be provided during a pandemic
  • If other organisations depend on your functions or services, engage them in the plan
  • Consult and provide feedback regularly to address any concerns of your staff or volunteers.

Step 7—Test and review your plan

The objective of this step is to put arrangements in place to test and review the plan on a regular basis to ensure it remains current and relevant.

Using the Step 7 template:

  • Assess whether your organisation has appropriate plans and procedures in place to respond in a pandemic
  • Identify what further steps may need to be taken.

Test the plan

Testing your plan will help identify if you have overlooked anything in your planning. It will also let
you know if your action plan is practical and will help ensure your staff are aware of their roles.

  • Ensure staff understand the risks and treatments.
Things to consider:
  • Are risk treatments effective in minimising the risk?
  • Do staff know what your plan is should a risk event occur?
  • If a risk event occurred would your plan ensure your business can continue operations?

Review

It is important plans are regularly reviewed including updating contact lists:

  • How often do you need to review your plan (e.g. every 6 or 12 months)?
  • If your services and external environment do not often change, you need to review your business continuity arrangements less frequently. If you operate in a changing environment you might need to review this more frequently
  • Have your organisation’s key activities changed?
  • Review your environment to see if there are any new or emerging risks or if there are any new ways to reduce the impact of existing risks (e.g. new software developed to protect your IT system).

Conclusion

This workbook aims to provide you with a practical and valuable start in preparing your organisation for a crisis, such as a potential human influenza pandemic. The tools, templates and information should assist you in understanding the impact a pandemic could have on your organisation and the community, and how important it is to start thinking now and developing your organisation’s pandemic plan.

If you have any further questions or would like any additional information please email piinfo@dss.gov.au

Disclaimer

This document aims to assist non-government organisations better prepare for a potential human influenza pandemic in Australia. It draws on a number of already published sources in Australia and overseas and is the result of community and government consultation.

The Commonwealth accepts no responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of any material contained in this publication and recommends that users exercise their own skill and care with respect to its use.

Additionally, the Commonwealth disclaims all and any liability to any person in respect of anything, and of the consequences of anything, done or omitted to be done by any such person in reliance, whether wholly or partially, upon the whole or any part of the contents of this publication.

Material in this publication is made available on the understanding that the Commonwealth is not providing professional advice. Before relying on any of the material in this publication, readers should obtain appropriate professional advice. Views and recommendations of third parties, which may also be included in this publication, do not necessarily reflect the views of the Commonwealth, or indicate a commitment to a particular course of action.

The content of this document was prepared based on information available in December 2007 and new information may become available over time. Readers are advised to visit the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs website and other relevant reference sources to ensure they have access to the most up to date information to remain well informed.

Organisations should refer to HB292–2006 Handbook A Practitioners guide to business continuity management published by Standards Australia (ISBN 0 7337 7472 5) for more information.

ISBN 978 1 921380 82 2

© Commonwealth of Australia 2008

This work is copyright. It may be reproduced in whole or in part for study or training purposes subject to the inclusions of an acknowledgment of the source and no commercial usage or sale. Reproduction for purposes other than those indicated above, require the prior written permission from the Commonwealth available from the Commonwealth Copyright Administration, Attorney-General’s Department. Requests and inquiries concerning reproduction and rights should be addressed to the Commonwealth Copyright Administration, Attorney-General’s Department, Robert Garran Offices, National Circuit, Canberra ACT 2600 or posted at http://www.ag.gov.au/cca

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