The Department of Homeland Security released a guide to help cost-conscious businesses prepare for an outbreak of the H1N1 virus, most commonly known as swine flu.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano today joined
Small Business Administration Administrator Karen Mills and Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention Influenza Division Deputy Director Daniel Jernigan to
announce a preparedness guide
to assist small businesses in planning for the H1N1, or swine, flu.
Napolitano said small businesses play an essential role in the national
effort to prepare for all disasters and emergencies-including the H1N1 flu-and
the guide will help the country's small businesses "maintain continuity of
operations and resiliency" as the fall flu season approaches.
The preparedness guide offers small business employers tools and information
to help them plan for and respond flexibly to varying levels of severity of an
H1N1 outbreak-which may lead to increased absenteeism and, if the outbreak
becomes more severe, may include restricted service capabilities and supply
chain disruptions. Additional preparations may be necessary if a more serious
outbreak evolves during the fall and winter.
The DHS warned that outbreaks of H1N1 flu are occurring now across the
country and will likely coincide with the return of seasonal flu this fall and
Mills said small business owners should take the time to create a plan, talk
with their employees and make sure they are prepared for flu season. "For
countless small businesses, having even one or two employees out for a few days
has the potential to negatively impact operations and their bottom line," she said.
"A thoughtful plan will help keep employees and their families healthy, as well
as protect small businesses and local economies."
Employers are encouraged to put strategies in place now to protect their
employees and their businesses in advance of the fall flu season. Included in
the preparedness guide are tips on how to write a continuity of operations
plan, steps for keeping employees healthy, frequently asked questions about the
2009 H1N1 flu and a list of additional resources that employers can access
The guide encourages small businesses to identify an workplace coordinator
who will be responsible for dealing with 2009 H1N1 flu issues and their impact
at the workplace, including contacting local health department and health care
providers in advance and developing and implementing protocols for response to
ill individuals. They would also examine policies for leave, telework and
employee compensation,and review these with all employees so they are
up-to-date on sick leave policies and employee assistance services that are
covered under employee-sponsored health plans.
Other suggestions include sharing the company's pandemic plans with
employees and clearly communicating expectations, preparing business continuity
plans in the event there is significant absenteeism, and establishing an
emergency communications plan, which includes identification of key contacts
(with backups), chain of communications (including suppliers and customers),
and processes for tracking and communicating business and employee status.
Nathan Eddy is Associate Editor, Midmarket, at eWEEK.com. Before joining eWEEK.com, Nate was a writer with ChannelWeb and he served as an editor at FierceMarkets. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.