The Swine Flu epidemic may not have reached pandemic proportions, but global property/casualty insurance provider Zurich is preparing its customers for its potential risk by delivering information that can help their enterprise minimize the potential impacts associated with a pandemic outbreak or other cascading business disruptions. Regardless of what course the current swine flu outbreak takes, notes Zurich, it is important that its customers get ready for the impact a potential swine flu pandemic could have on their business.

To prepare for the effects of a pandemic, business owners may need to change the way they conduct business.

Zurich suggests business owners follow the strategic steps below to help mitigate their exposures and minimize the impacts from a potential swine flu pandemic:

1. Develop a pandemic action committee to review, plan and oversee a company’s response to a potential swine flu pandemic and how it will minimize the spread of communicable disease in the workplace.

2. Identify critical processes and functions that must continue for a business to remain viable. Determine if some processes and functions can be automated or managed remotely or with fewer employees.

3. Evaluate critical suppliers and customers: Does a company have critical suppliers located in affected regions? Identify suppliers that provide critical raw materials, component parts or essential services and develop a contingency plan for how to operate if suppliers weren’t available. Also, consider that a company may be a critical supplier to customers.

4. Identify essential employees or expertise: Find ways to protect critical employees through isolation or by having them work remotely. Consider travel restrictions for employees to affected areas.

5. Review sick leave and disability leave policies as well as any government-mandated leave policies: Encourage healthy employees to come to work and ill employees to stay home unless mandates are in place.

6. Review physical and security considerations: Evaluate the workplace and consider promoting social distancing (three to six feet) between employee workstations to minimize potential infections.

7. Develop communication and employee packages: Keep employees informed on what the company is doing to keep them healthy along with general information on swine flu.

8. Align action steps with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) pandemic stages: Check their Web sites to learn about the identified stages of a pandemic and align the company plan to the appropriate stage.

In addition to the suggested steps, Zurich’s Risk Engineering group has developed a Webinar to help its customers rethink sustainability and cope with business continuity during a potential swine flu pandemic. A resilient enterprise will be better able to anticipate surprises, recover from disruptions, adapt to changing conditions, and leverage emerging opportunities.

The 40-minute session covers strategic steps that business owners need to do right now to ensure they are prepared to survive and thrive in situations such as this. The Webinars will focus on critical continuity planning and recovery points that will help make business more disaster resilient, such as:

•    Preventative measures and crisis planning
•    Sick and disability leave plans
•    Supply chain disruption and alternatives
•    Minimizing impact to critical processes and functions
•    Communication and education to employees

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