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“Try to Remain Calm” – The Importance of Pandemic Planning

For many, the word “pandemic” brings up memories of watching “Outbreak” or reading about a disease taking its toll on a far away country. It’s not something that people – let alone organizations – think they have to worry about. Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth. This blog post is not meant to scare you; rather, it’s meant to educate you on the importance of including pandemic planning within your company’s critical communications plan.

According to Reuters, in the past two months, both the CDC and the NIH have had a series of “incidents” that included mishandling anthrax, mislabeling influenza, and misplacing smallpox. Tom Frieden, the director of the CDC, told an audience at the National Press Club that “antibiotic resistance” can turn ordinary illnesses into the “next pandemic.” The scare of an Ebola outbreak is making waves in the news, too.

Pandemics are disasters that not only threaten global public health, but also every business operation and their workforce. So what can an organization do to prepare? Simply put: incorporate pandemic planning into your existing crisis communication and disaster recovery plans.

Think about it this way, as in any disaster, critical communication during a pandemic needs to be immediate, effective and based on reliable, accurate information. Responses and alerts at each stage of the outbreak must connect the right people at the right time, be useful in gathering and contributing feedback to important resources and be efficient and accurate. Sensitive planning and communication are required to help avoid, reduce, and mitigate the likelihood of panic, confusion, rumor, and misinformation – factors that contribute to an increase in the spread of the disease and impede in containment and management.

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Dr. Robert C. Chandler, one of the leading authorities on effective crisis communication and planning, collaborated with Everbridge on an in-depth white paper that outlines the key points for pandemic planning – from initial outbreak to recovery. It is a must read in a time when pandemics are much less science fiction and much more real life.

Pandemics present dramatic consequences for health and safety, as well as business continuity and post-event recovery. Organizations need to proactively think about how they will coordinate, communicate, and sustain contact with key constituents before, during, and after major public health disruptions. They can’t afford not to.

For more information on how to prepare your critical communication strategy for the next big pandemic – believed to be inevitable, according to Dr. Chandler – read our new whitepaper, Pandemic: A Unique Crisis Communication Category.