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NFPA Organizational Planning Tips for Pandemic Preparedness

The growth and spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection around the world has everyone on the brink of outright panic (no, toilet paper won’t help protect you from a virus). The NFPA is sharing some great planning tips for Pandemic Preparedness.

Businesses, schools, and healthcare institutions are all taking out their pandemic plans from the previous 2009 H1N1 outbreak and dusting them off for another look. 

Or, if they didn’t have guidance in place, they are looking to establish continuity or strategic plans in case COVID-19 threatens to impact their operations

Spread of COVID-19

According to the World Health Organization this week, they report COVID-19 is spreading but their is no mention of the rate of spread (as of 23 March, the WHO estimates 332,935 confirmed cases worldwide). 

At the moment, however, death rates are still mercifully low (as a percentage against cases). On March 3rd (ages ago it seems) they estimated a 3.4% Mortality Rate. If broadcast news is to be believed, they claim (on page after page on the internet) that the majority of fatalities are occurring with people over 65.

However, governments have to react and be seen to be doing something. The WHO is recommending social distancing as “best practice” and this does make sense. Containment and reduction of spread being the goal.

Although with social distancing programs and a rise in awareness of symptoms and methods to protect, there is hope that the spread of the virus will slow.

Testing for COVID-19

As more testing kits become available globally, there will likely be many more confirmed cases of the virus discovered around the world.

Those diagnostic kits (Reverse Transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR) will also provide a much better epidemiological picture of where COVID-19 is spreading and how it is being transmitted. Presumably, too, the strain of COVID-19 can also be ascertained.

According to the Internet, a company called Bioamerica has begun shipping a $10 Rapid Test (a finger prick blood test with results in 10 minutes, that can be performed by trained professionals anywhere, e.g. airports, schools, work, pharmacies and doctors’ offices) to countries outside the US.

COVID-19 Organisational Planning Tips

Maybe you’re thinking COVID-19 is a medical issue, not a fire incident or emergency response concern, so how can National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) help us?

The US National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9/11Commission), recognized the NFPA 1600 Standard on Continuity, Emergency, and Crisis Management as the National Preparedness Standard in the US.

Widely used by public, not-for-profit, non-governmental, and private entities on a global basis, NFPA 1600 has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (and other international agencies) as a voluntary consensus standard for emergency preparedness. In Thailand, NFPA 101:Life Safety Code is one standard used in Fire Protection regulations.

The NFPA 1600 standard is available on the NFPA website for free viewing and offers key information for entities who want to conduct a risk assessment, business impact analysis, capabilities and needs assessments and develop emergency and recovery plans.

Healthcare decision-makers may also find NFPA 99 Health Care Facilities Code helpful; the document provides critical safety information and requirements for isolation spaces, emergency planning, IT and data infrastructure, and more. It’s worth a read.

So, what can you do immediately to better prepare and revise your plans?

First thing is to identify the event that you are planning for. Chapter 5 of NFPA 1600 states:

Crisis management planning shall address an event, or series of events, that severely impacts or has the potential to severely impact an entity’s operations, reputation, market share, ability to do business, or relationships with key stakeholders.

NFPA 1600

In the case of COVID-19 that event is easy to identify. What’s harder to put a finger on is the vulnerability of people, property, operations, the environment, the entity, and the supply chain operations.

The second thing to do is to conduct a business impact analysis. A key facet of this deep dive is evaluating the following: 

  • Dependencies
  • Single-source and sole-source suppliers
  • Single points of failure
  • Potential qualitative and quantitative impacts from a disruption

The third is to assess your resource needs. Here are some things to consider:

  • What do you have in place currently to mitigate potential disruptions?
  • What are the things you must do to maintain services, at a minimum?
  • What are your technological capabilities and how can they be leveraged to minimize the impact?
  • What are aspects of your business or services that can be disrupted in order to re-direct assets to necessary activities?

Once you have a good picture of the threat, your capabilities, and what you need to continue operations, you can realistically plan.

Businesses and communities will be well-served if they regard the coronavirus as an opportunity for self-evaluation and to either update or create plans that will be needed if the virus continues to spread.

NFPA 1600 is a valuable tool for those who are focused on continuity of operations but bear in mind that planning cannot and should not be done in a vacuum.

Important Steps

Establish a planning team, and invite your stakeholders, vendors, and emergency partners (like KRP) to participate in the planning process, where appropriate.

Evaluate your products or services, and prioritize the use and purchase of them.

Emergency Health Care Facilities

Healthcare, as an example, gets a little trickier because facilities service patients; but do all operational aspects require workers to be physically present? Would this unnecessarily put them and their loved ones at risk?

Or can you identify the biggest priorities? Do you know what your surge capacity is? How many additional PPE supplies can you store? What contracts do you have in place to acquire more supplies?

Are you in touch with the local health department and discussing plans for any surges, how to get support or how to offer support? What plans are in place to house patient overflow?

In Thailand and ASEAN, one of Kiwi Resource Protection’s strategic partners is offering to rent their blast-resistant inflatable shelters for use as patient overflow in this crisis. These large 480sqm domes are ideal for isolation rooms, quarantine and other uses during the crisis.

As all-hazards information and knowledge leader, the NFPA has worked to help entities and communities address emergencies for a very long time. They really do know what they are talking about in emergency scenarios and planning.

As you review or develop necessary plans, consult NFPA 99, NFPA 1600, and the NFPA 1600 handbook. You may also want to consult the NFPA Emergency Preparedness Checklist or contact KRP to learn more about developing emergency plans.

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