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Ten Business Tips for Swine Flu Crisis Management and Communications Planning
Don't panic, but don't stick your head in the sand

By Sherri Fallin, CEO,
Duffey Communications, Inc.

ATLANTA (April 29, 2009) As the World Health Organization raises the Pandemic Alert Level for swine flu, businesses - regardless of size - should take heed. The human-to-human transmission of swine flu among a workforce can lead to downtime, endangering the profitability of many already faltering businesses.

Businesses need a swine flu crisis management and communications plan to respond to employees, customers, vendors - anyone who plays a critical role in keeping business operations running. If you have a crisis plan, dust it off and make it specific to swine flu to protect your employees, your customers and your bottom line.

Here are 10 tips to fast track a short-term response plan:

1. Start Swine Flu Outbreak Planning Now: Don't panic, but don't put your head in the sand either. Pull together your management team - executive, human resources, operations, information technology, marketing and communications - to develop a short-term swine flu response plan that is effective throughout the organization. Priority planning items include: "most likely to happen" and worst-case scenarios; work-from-home or satellite location contingency plans; swine-flu employee sick leave and travel policies; and swine-flu specific employee and client communications.

2. Swine Flu Employee and Client Communications: Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate with your management team. Communicate with associates, and communicate with customers. Make sure your management team understands and communicates corporate policies to employees - and that those policies are followed.

3. Prepare for "Most Likely to Happen Scenarios": Planning for "most likely to happen" scenarios can prevent worst-case scenarios. Many companies plan for worst - but aren't prepared when lesser but equally disruptive events occur. Begin swine flu planning with the company's response if one employee is exposed to or becomes ill with swine flu. Also consider what your company will do if a local school closes due to a swine flu outbreak, which means parents might need to stay home with their children ¡V possibly being exposed to swine flu and becoming ill.

4. Keep Business Moving Forward During a Swine Flu Outbreak: When preparing for worst-case scenarios, such as a closure due to a widespread swine flu outbreak, make sure essential, non-affected employees can work from home or a satellite location. Follow the news and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to determine if closures or quarantines are necessary and the scope to which your company's response should be implemented.

5. Include a Variety of Tools in Swine Flu Response and Communications Planning: Use phone, e-mail, company Web site and other sites where your company has a presence, such as Facebook, for ongoing communication during a swine flu outbreak. Alert customers as to how you will continue operating during a swine flu outbreak, and explain how they can communicate with you. When appropriate, preemptively communicate to customers your plans for a swine flu outbreak so they know you can manage their business during a crisis - especially if you are in a community with a swine flu outbreak.

6. Swine Flu-Specific Sick-Leave Policy: Develop and issue an employee sick-leave policy specifically for swine flu. Many employees don't want to miss work, especially in the current economy. But encourage them to stay home and see their doctor if they experience symptoms ¡V and report back to their managers if diagnosed with swine flu. Also, remind employees to follow standard sick leave policies if they become ill for any reason.

7. Swine Flu Employee Education: Educate employees about swine flu symptoms and what to do if they believe they have been exposed to it. First and foremost, employees should go to their primary care physician for treatment and testing. According to the CDC, swine flu symptoms can mirror those of regular human seasonal flu, including: fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu have also reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, as well as extreme and sudden dizziness.

8. Swine Flu Prevention Tips: Provide employees with credible flu prevention tips, such as the CDC's hand washing guidelines. Make sure employees wash their hands; cover their mouths when they sneeze; and use hand sanitizer. Additional swine flu prevention tips recommended by the CDC include:

    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth to prevent spreading germs. 
    • Stay at home if you are sick or not feeling well.
    • Try to avoid close contact with sick people. 
9. Swine Flu-Specific Employee Travel Guidelines: Track swine flu outbreak areas and monitor employee travel. Establish short-term travel guidelines related to swine flu. And, make sure employees follow all CDC and airline policy swine flu guidelines - even if they are not traveling to an area with a swine flu outbreak.

10. Use the Web to Stay Informed About the Swine Flu: For more tips and information about crisis communications planning for the swine flu outbreak, continue to visit our web site For information about the swine flu, visit The CDC's Swine Flu web pages, The US Goverment's pandemic flu web site, The World Heath Organization's web site and your local and national news Web sites

About Duffey Communications, Inc. 

Founded in 1984, Duffey Communications has developed a long-standing reputation for unbridled creativity and a keen spirit of entrepreneurialism. Twenty-five years and nearly 500 awards later, Duffey Communications has grown into one of the nation's leading public relations, integrated marketing and public affairs firms, and is one of the oldest independently owned, full-service agencies in the Southeast. For more information or to reach us click here for our web site contact . Chief Executive Officer Sherri Fallin has consulted and developed epidemic crisis plans for a number of businesses and organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Spelman College; and FluBusters.

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