Pandemic Business Continuity Plan?

Recently I attended a webinar that discussed the need for a business continuity plan (BCP) in case a pandemic virus was to affect hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people around the world, possibly in your area. Obviously playing off of the fears from the recent H1N1 (a new flu virus of swine origin according to the CDC), the presentation seemed to focus on how your business would continue to operate if such an event were to happen.

To be sure the possibility exists of regions/localities being closed off from access if the outbreak was to happen, but I think the presenter was missing the bigger picture.

I don’t think you need a business continuity plan for a pandemic. You need a business continuity plan for any event that can cause business operations to slow down or potentially stop for multiple days. Let’s not specify a BCP for a pandemic, rather let’s create a BCP that includes measures for situations that would not allow workers into the building, street, or city for a certain period of time. Certainly a pandemic would qualify for this, but so would many natural disasters including hazardous chemical leaks/explosions massive civil disturbances, etc.

Trying to plan for a specific event is tricky at best – it is almost impossible to guess every potential situation that may cause your workers to not be allowed into their workplace. Do you have a separate pandemic plan for a one-day outage? Two-day outage? Five days? You get my point.

I would suggest that rather than planning for specific events, instead plan for estimated days of non-access regardless of the reason. Your BCP should have plans for multiple day events, multiple week events, and at least a framework for multiple month events. While multiple-month events may seem far-fetched one only has to remember September 11, 2001 or Hurricane Katrina to at least give some consideration for the possibility.