With many governments, companies, and others dragging their feet in preparing for a possible bird flu pandemic, it's refreshing to see those who aren't. In some cases, organizations who really focused on the task produced a pandemic plan in short order.
For instance Alcan Inc. — a $20 billion Canadian aluminum manufacturer with approximately 70,000 employees in 55 countries around the globe — developed and implemented a detailed, global response program in just two months. The company began the process in September 2005 when it convened a committee comprising corporate security, environmental health and safety, and communications representatives from Europe and Canada. In November the committee introduced a companywide program that covers everything from stockpiling medical supplies and quarantine procedures, to telecommuting and foreign travel policies.
The company's travel policy includes daily avian flu status reports that inform employees of the current situation by country and, if necessary, tells them what areas to avoid. At the plant level, the company has developed flu-screening processes including procedures to backtrack and identify anyone who came in contact with an infected individual.
Should the virus begin to spread, the company will implement the plan in stages according to four color-coded alert levels: green (non-contagious); yellow (spreading remotely in other countries); orange (spreading locally); and red (infecting employees). Each stage triggers specific instructions for employees.
If conditions reach the red level at any facility, the company will shut down and send employees home, according to a report in this month's issue of Inside Counsel magazine.
"At some locations, shutting down will only take a few minutes," says Mivil Deschenes, Alcan's chief security officer. "But with an aluminum smelter, it could take four days to ramp down to a complete stop. We've conducted drills with crisis management teams from all five business units."
For companies that haven't yet addressed the possibility of a flu pandemic, third parties can help with aspects of the task. Examples: Logistics Health Inc., a Wisconsin company that provides medical readiness services, and International SOS, a veteran provider of overseas emergency medical care for employees, students, or leisure travelers.