Ebola: business continuity by the numbers We need one infographic for Info-Tech and one for McLean Co. Get the facts. Understand the risks. Make a plan. Opportunity [This is the member pain part] Organizations need to make and review business continuity plans without overacting, and take a level-headed risk management approach toward tackling their potential exposure to Ebola. Get the facts about Ebola. Understand the risks to employees and supply chain. Make a plan to ensure business continuity. Situation Analysis The latest outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is the largest and most complex since the virus was discovered in 1976. Given the lack of health care resources in affected communities, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes that Ebola cases are underreported. The organization estimates that the actual number of cases may be as high as 21,000. Without additional interventions or changes in community behavior, the CDC projects approximately 550,000 Ebola cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone by January 20, 2015, or 1.4 million if we correct for underreporting. On October 3, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated the disease had infected over 7,470 people globally, and caused 3,431 deaths. On October 8, the World Bank estimated that containing the EVD outbreak could cost the global economy over $32 billion by the end of 2015. In contrast, the 2003 influenza season cost the U.S. an estimated $106.4 billion (in $2014) (ScienceDirect, The annual impact of seasonal influenza report). Indirect costs of the EVD outbreak outweigh the dollar value of the direct costs: A fear of association with others. Reduced labor force participation. Closed places of employment. Disrupted transportation, including the closure of seaports and airports. Food shortages and political unrest in heavily affected areas. The chances of an Ebola outbreak in the U.S. are extremely low, but like many countries, the U.S. is treating the epidemic as a security risk rather than a public health problem (The Independent). On September 30, 2014, the first case of EVD diagnosed in the United States led to swift and decisive action. The threat EVD poses is remote for regions outside of West Africa. EVD is less contagious than many other infectious diseases, and claims fewer lives each year (Huffington Post). In fact, influenza claims more lives each year than EVD has claimed since its discovery in 1976 (CDC and Health Intelligence). Despite the media attention, as of October 10th, there has been one death due to EVD in the United States and one healthcare worker who treated that patient has become ill. As the Washington Post noted on its front page on October 5, “this is both a biological plague and a psychological one, and fear can spread even faster than the virus.” See graph below Make and review business continuity plans given the EVD outbreak, without overreacting. EVD is not the next H1N1. It is less contagious, less deadly, and less disruptive than influenza, which affects organizations worldwide each year. Use this opportunity to review business continuity plans. You may be better prepared than you know. Most organizations who prepared business continuity plans for the 2003 SARS pandemic or the 2009 H1N1 pandemic and who do not have contact with West African states, likely just need to review and refresh their business continuity plans with a short section on EVD. Begin with the obvious precautions. At worst, the following steps will prevent the spread of the flu, which has a much larger impact on your organization each season than the projected impact of EVD this year. Counsel employees to avoid contact with infected patients. Send sick individuals home from work, and require they contact a health professional. Ensure soap and hand sanitizer are on hand to support good personal hygiene in the workplace. Ensure employees are familiar with good personal hygiene practices. Understand the risks. Organizations who demonstrate credible concern for their employees are most likely to mitigate the impact of the outbreak at home. The impact on employees will hinge on their contact with affected countries. Establish clear guidelines for staff travelling to the region or based in affected countries. Make a plan for caring for sick employees in affected countries, or for repatriating them if the borders close. Investigate whether insurance will mitigate costs associated with evacuating employees. Monitor travel advisories from the CDC and the Government of Canada. Make a plan. Recognize which employees and functions you cannot do without. What are your organizational priorities? These may differ in different parts of the world. Which products and services are critical in different parts of the world? Which stakeholder relationships must you preserve as long as possible? Think about vendors, supplies, contractors, and clients. What function may become more important if the epidemic spreads? If you cannot answer these questions, put together a business continuity planning team to help prepare your organization for business interruptions. Identify two or three designates to act as back up for each employee in a critical function should your workforce be affected by the outbreak. Don’t expect your staff to put their work ahead of their own health and safety or the health and safety of their family. Establish a list of updated email addresses, and phone and cell numbers for all your employees. Enable your staff to work remotely where possible, but bear in mind that telecommuting presupposes access to a reliable internet connection. Identify the essential skills your organization needs to maintain business continuity, and make sure that many people are trained to carry out these critical tasks. Have policies in place to establish how to deal with affected employees. Determine how you will pay employees who become sick so you can deal with them consistently. If your employees think they won’t get paid, they may come into the office sick and make others ill. Determine how you will deal with employees who exceed the number of sick days. Contact your benefits carrier to see what your policies cover, and make sure your employees know. Vendors and partners may not prioritize your interest if their own operations are interrupted. Organizations with operations in affected countries should perform a thorough risk assessment, and update their business continuity plan (BCP). Organizations without a BCP should consider drafting an integrated mitigation strategy that clearly identifies risks, triggers, and responses. Even organizations that don’t have operations in West Africa or staff that travel or stay in affected areas may experience service interruptions if their regional partners experience: High rates of absenteeism Border closures or political unrest If critical partners in your supply chain don’t have a BCP in place, consider writing one into your contract.