Building Performance

Monday, August 17, 2009 Issue 26   VOLUME 1 ISSUE 26  
Industry Perspectives
Tips from the Experts
News and Events
Service Spotlight
Saving Energy Means Making Your Building Perform
H1N1 Influenza – Now is the Time to Prepare
How to Have an Effective and Efficient Emergency Response
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H1N1 Influenza – Now is the Time to Prepare
by Ted Myatt, Sc.D., R.B.P.

Commercial businesses should be prepared to deal with the ramifications of an influenza outbreak. Many companies are taking steps ranging from stockpiling antiviral medications to planning for increased absenteeism. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently estimated that as many as 40% of the population could become infected. Officials are worried that the number of cases will increase dramatically as the children return to school and people begin to spend more time indoors. EH&E has prepared guidance appropriate for commercial businesses based on CDC guidance for healthcare facilities and EH&E’s understanding of operations in commercial businesses.

10 Steps Businesses Can Take: Actions for H1N1 Influenza Planning and Response for Businesses

1. Develop a Business Continuity Plan – H1N1 flu outbreaks will impact the organization, employees and their families, and the supply chain of critical materials. Develop a plan that will sustain your core business activities for several weeks.

2. Organize an Incident Command Team (ICT) to provide timely pandemic information and guidance –The ICT should be staffed by personnel from a variety of backgrounds such as senior management, human resources, legal, environmental health and safety, occupational medicine, and facilities management. If your business does not have personnel to fill these rolls, consider contracting with outside consultancies.

3. Plan to operate your facility if there is significant staff absenteeism – Are you ready for 20 to 40% of your employees not being able to come to work? Cross training your staff is key to resilience.

4. Protect your workplace by asking sick employees to stay home – Ask sick staff to stay home and align your sick leave policy accordingly. Additionally, staff should be informed on how to take care of sick family members.

5. Take steps to protect your workforce during an outbreak of H1N1 – All staff, especially those that come in close contact with the public, may need to be advised to take extra precautions such as enhanced housekeeping and space cleaning regimens, increased use of hand sanitizers, and use of respiratory and eye protection.

6. Provide immunization against seasonal flu at no cost to your staff – While the H1N1 vaccine may not be available for your employees this fall, the seasonal influenza vaccine will be available and is recommended, especially for people at high risk of serious flu complications.

7. Educate employees about your plan for coping with the pandemic and ways to minimize the risk of becoming infected – Provide educational materials on ways to minimize the risk of becoming infected (e.g., hand hygiene, social distancing, when to stay home).

8. Consider stockpiling antiviral medications for your staff – The CDC recommends antiviral medications as an important treatment option for people with H1N1 influenza. The medication may help those that are ill recover faster and therefore return to work sooner.

9. Consider staff located outside of the United States – Businesses with overseas facilities with significant staff should review the H1N1 situation in each country. Access to medical care and medication should be reviewed for all overseas staff.

10. Plan now so you will know where to obtain reliable, up-to-date information in your local community – The ICT should monitor the CDC H1N1 Flu website and local and state health department websites for the latest information.

EH&E supports business continuity planning and pandemic readiness for clients in healthcare, research, financial services, and other commercial enterprises ranging in size to small businesses to Fortune 500 multi-national businesses. EH&E has the experience and expertise to assist in the preparation of business continuity plans and policies or evaluate existing plans and policies to ensure that they will keep your business on track during an influenza outbreak. For more information on EH&E’s pandemic preparation services, visit

Ted Myatt, Sc.D., R.B.P., is a Senior Scientist at EH&E. He currently serves as the biological safety officer for Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard Institutes of Medicine, both located in Boston, MA.


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