HHS Releases Checklist to Help Businesses Prepare for a Pandemic

To help businesses develop specific plans to protect employees and maintain operations during a pandemic, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, joined by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, released a "Business Pandemic Influenza Checklist."

The checklist was presented at a Business Roundtable meeting with chief executive officers of leading companies in Washington, DC.

"In the event of a pandemic, planning by business leaders will be critical to protecting employees' health, limiting the negative economic impact and ensuring the continued delivery of essential services like food, medicine and power," Leavitt said. "I look forward to involving businesses of all sizes in pandemic planning and integrating their plans into state and federal efforts."

The new checklist identifies specific activities that companies can do now to prepare for a pandemic and will also be helpful in other types of emergencies. Developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the checklist suggests companies plan how they would forecast employee absences during a pandemic; disseminate information to employees; establish flexible work sites; and establish policies for employees who have been exposed, are suspected to be ill or become ill at the worksite. Activities are broken into broader categories for action, including:

  • Plan for the impact of a pandemic on a business;
  • Plan for the impact of a pandemic on employees and customers;
  • Establish policies to be implemented during a pandemic;
  • Allocate resources to protect employees and customers during a pandemic;
  • Communicate with and educate employees; and
  • Coordinate with external organizations and communities.

The release of the business checklist is one part of overall Bush administration planning to increase pandemic preparedness. In order to safeguard against the threat of a pandemic and mitigate the effects should one occur, President Bush outlined a coordinated government strategy that includes the establishment of a new International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza, stockpiling of vaccines and antiviral medications, expansion of early-warning systems domestically and abroad and new initiatives for local and state level preparedness.

Leavitt met with senior officials from all 50 states to begin preparing for a series of in-state pandemic-planning summits to be held in every state over the next several months. He also issued a "State and Local Health Department Planning Checklist for Public Health Roles and Responsibilities." It summarizes key planning activities to be undertaken by the public health system of each state in collaboration with partners. Additional checklists to help families, schools, the travel industry and faith-based and community organizations increase their preparedness will be issued in coming weeks.

A copy of the business checklist and other pandemic planning information is available online at www.pandemicflu.gov.

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