MADISON, Wis. (10/20/14)--Given how seriously the United States is taking the presence of Ebola in this country, it seems unlikely that a widespread outbreak of the deadly disease could manifest itself at a large scale.
That said, the sensational nature of the disease does serve as a reminder about the importance of preparing for the threat of pandemics of all kinds, such as the flu or other more common viruses.
"Nobody wants to think about pandemic planning," Paul Sullivan, vice president/general manager of Agility Recovery, a disaster recovery solutions company, told
. "The reason they don't want to think about it is because it has no boundaries--it's all about people. And in my mind, credit unions are all about people."
Agility, a CUNA Strategic Services alliance provider, released a white paper and checklist Friday that credit unions can look to when preparing themselves for potential pandemic events.
Called "Gone Viral: Protecting Your Employees and Your Bottom Line from the Effects of Pandemics," the paper outlines the various viruses the world is currently dealing with; who's most vulnerable; what impacts those viruses can have on an organization; and what steps credit unions can take to cut down on potential risks.
To access both the white paper and Agility Recovery's Seasonal Influenza Preparedness Checklist, use the resource links below.
Among the viruses most likely to be encountered in the United States is Enterovirus D68, an airborne virus that often spreads when an infected person coughs, sneezes or touches commonly used surfaces, according to Agility. Mild symptoms include fever, a runny nose, sneezing, coughing and muscle aches.
Then, of course, there's influenza, the most serious cases of which occur in people 65 years and older.
To ensure an organization is minimizing the risk of an outbreak that could severely affect its operation, Agility recommends that organizations take a number of proactive steps, including:
- Forming health and wellness teams to take the lead on illness prevention for the organization;
- Meeting once a year to stress the importance of prevention and to keep employees informed;
- Encouraging employees to get flu vaccines, or if possible offer free vaccines to employees;
- Placing hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the office;
- Promoting telecommuting when employees are feeling sick; and
- Routinely sanitizing common surfaces such as kitchen countertops, conference room tables and door handles.
Even when a comprehensive plan is followed, however, the truth is that flu season is unavoidable, Agility says, and there's still always a chance an organization could be impacted.
Should a health crisis occur, Agility recommends:
- Developing a work redundancy plan to make sure every employee is trained to cover at least one other person in their group;
- Setting up a communication system that includes voice messages, text messages and emails to be able to quickly alert employees and members about such an outbreak;
- Setting threat-level guidelines that determine when it's appropriate to cancel meetings or travel; and
- Monitoring unusual increases in absenteeism, among other actions.
"With proper planning, education and services such as the flu vaccine, an organization can minimize sick days and reduce health costs, while ensuring that productivity and quality care are maintained," Agility says.