Way back on November 9, 2009, we first wrote about the H1N1 flu virus.  In the beginning it was just another typical “winter flu”, and quickly became much more than that.  Seemingly overnight, we went from flu epidemic to flu pandemic.

Cue the panic.  The stress.  And chaos.

No one was prepared.  The international health bodies weren’t ready.  Businesses weren’t ready.  School boards weren’t prepared.  The general public was either hysterical or sticking its collective head in the sand pretending that H1N1 wasn’t an issue.  Given this reaction, we should be very relieved that we all came out of this pandemic as well as we did.  And just to reinforce how well we did survive this pandemic, the World Health Organization announced on Tuesday August 10 that the H1N1 flu pandemic was officially over.

But this doesn’t mean that you can forget about this pesky flu bug.  Instead it is the perfect opportunity to pay extra attention to what worked and what didn’t during this tense and stressful period.  We should use this experience with H1N1 as a learning opportunity and prepare for the next pandemic.

Dr. Kumanan Wilson is the Canada research chair in public health policy at the University of Ottawa.  In an article in the Vancouver Sun on Tuesday August 10, Dr. Wilson said “we need to be prepared to shift rather quickly our seasonal flu programs to reflect this new reality.  It’s a new disease… not the same disease as we’ve been treating.  It’s a disease that affects a different population with a different mortality rate.”

All this to say that what went well in the past may not work in the future. Just because your company survived the recent pandemic with little to no interruption doesn’t mean this will always be the case.  Take a look at your business continuity and disaster recovery plans.  Do they include:

  • Emergency contact information
  • Work from home options
  • Details on the nearest hospitals and clinics

Did you also take a proactive approach for your employees and look into vaccinating staff against this disease?  As we all know, the ad hoc vaccination clinics set up throughout North America were not that effective in vaccinating people.  How many work hours did your company lose to employees spending up to six hours waiting at their local clinic for the vaccine?

If you’re still thinking of brushing off the H1N1 pandemic as a bit of hysteria on the part of the governing international health bodies, consider this statement from WHO director-general Dr. Margaret Chan, “Pure good luck helped prevent H1N1 from morphing into the killer first feared last year.  The virus did not mutate during the pandemic to a more lethal form.  Widespread resistance to oseltamivir (Tamiflu) did not develop.  The vaccine proved to be a good match with the circulating viruses and showed an excellent safety profile.”  She added that the international community support ensured that countries with weaker healthcare systems were able to detect and report cases quickly.

“Had things gone wrong in any of these areas, we would be in a very different situation today.”

So, a few things to think about when looking at your current business continuity plan.  Even though your business survived this recent pandemic, does that mean you’re ready for another?  There is no time like the present to update your plans.  Or, if you don’t have a plan, to do a complete threat risk assessment and business impact analysis.  A practical and properly defined business continuity plan can ensure your company is ready.

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