Pandemic Flu Planning

Water systems are part of the critical infrastructure of every community. Without water, there cannot be a healthy and hygienic community. This is doubly important in the event of an infectious disease outbreak. It is the responsibility of drinking water professionals to ensure that pure, safe water is continuously distributed to all of the customers in a system. Public water systems should develop a plan to maintain continuity of business operations in the event of pandemic flu.

Develop a plan to maintain continuity of business operations in the event of pandemic flu.
 

Business continuity is something that public water systems should always strive for, but it is not always easily achieved. In the event of a disaster, there are challenges to our business that must be part of a system's planning.

Pandemic flu presents challenges to business continuity that may not be obvious at first. Below are some questions that arise when you begin to evaluate how a pandemic flu event could affect a water system.

  1. Does your community have a pandemic influenza plan? Are you part of your community's pandemic influenza planning and preparedness process?
  2. Have you integrated pandemic influenza scenarios into your Emergency Response Plan (ERP)?
  3. Who are the critical staff you identified to perform the critical operations at your treatment plant? What if they call in sick tomorrow?
  4. What critical functions could potentially take place outside of normal business hours? Have you thought of re-arranging staff's schedules to decrease contact (Social Distancing or the canceling of meetings and closing of gathering places)?
  5. If an influenza pandemic affects your community and drastic measures must be taken to sustain at least minimal essential operations, have you prioritized all functions - essential and non-essential - to potentially reduce or suspend in an authorized/approved manner (e.g., prioritize availability of firefighting water versus potable water)?
  6. What coordination steps have you taken with other jurisdictions and agencies to discuss preparedness in the event of an influenza pandemic? If you have a plan, have you integrated your plan with government and other cross-sector plans?
  7. Who would you consider to be less-essential staff? Have you considered the possibility of sending them home to reduce the chance for disease introduction and transmission?
  8. In the event of an influenza pandemic, will healthy critical staff be asked to remain at the facility and not leave? If so, how do they assure that their families are cared for?
  9. What are your options for off-site work for part of your staff?
  10. Where will your customers come to pay their bills? Can you set up a drive-through or on-line service?
  11. Which personnel would be vaccinated first if/when a vaccine is developed?
  12. In the event of an influenza pandemic, will healthy critical staff be asked to remain at the facility and not leave? If so, how do they assure that their families are cared for? If critical staff becomes infected, who will perform their role?
  13. What are your critical chemicals for treating water to regulatory standards? Can you stockpile these chemicals?
  14. Is your regular routine maintenance on your essential equipment up-to-date, and how much routine maintenance is required for this equipment?
  15. Who supplies your supplier? Will they be able to provide resources during a pandemic? If you have more than one supplier for any given resource, do your suppliers have different suppliers, or is there a single point of failure?

Current Pandemic Flu Information and Tracking

Business Continuity Planning

The world health organizations have been developing plans for Avian Pandemic Flu for several years. Those plans are also for any communicable disease. This would be an appropriate time to review business continuity planning documents and a system's continuity of operations plan.

The North Carolina Pandemic Flu Business Continuity Planning Checklist will help system operators think of all of the possible effects and actions needed during a pandemic flu event. It is useful in developing a business continuity plan, conducting meetings and updating emergency management plans. The Homeland Security Pandemic Flu Guide for Critical Infrastructure is a thorough guide for the national plan to mitigate pandemic flu.