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Keven Moore on Insurance: You can never be too prepared for Ebola or other health risks


No doubt, there is a lot of interest in – and concern about – the deadly Ebola virus that appears to be spiraling out of control in West Africa and, just recently, found its way into the United States with two confirmed cases. It’s gotten so bad lately that watching television might seem more like watching the 1995 movie Outbreak than the nightly news.
 

President Barack Obama called on the world to follow America’s lead and to act quickly in the fight to eradicate Ebola. He went on to warn that inaction could cause an exponential rise in the number of victims, further destabilize West Africa and even threaten world security.
 

Most infectious disease experts will tell you that the best way to stop an outbreak is to contain it early, and that we may have missed that opportunity months ago. Assuming the worst is true, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is projecting the virus will affect 1.4 million people by January 2015, growing into one of the biggest infectious pandemics of our generation. The scariest thing about his outbreak is that we really don’t how bad it really is. Many infected people in West Africa – where it was once confined to remote villages – do not report their illnesses out of fear of being quarantined away from loved ones.
 

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Closer to home, the question for us is how seriously do we need to take this problem? In other words, how prepared do we need to be?
 

As a trained professional in risk management and safety, I say that you can never be too prepared for a risk, especially when it comes to your health and, specifically, when it comes to the raging Ebola virus.
 

Yes, we must trust our government to protect us. I know many of you reading this just raised an eyebrow, and like you I can be somewhat skeptical as it relates to the efficiency of our government. But the CDC has trained for years to handle such an outbreak, and I believe that they will get ahead of this curve.
 

Nevertheless, I believe the we all should have contingency plans in place, whether for Ebola or any other crisis. Every family, employer, school, restaurant, bank, grocery store, etc., should be taking steps now to be better prepared should there be an Ebola outbreak in this country.
 

For now, let’s focus on the business side of things. In the event of a full-fledged pandemic, businesses would play a key role in protecting employees’ health and safety (as well as limiting the negative impact to the economy and society).
 

Here are some steps I would recommended for any business to be better prepared:
 

• Develop an infection control plan specific for your company’s needs.
 
• Create a decision flow chart. Set up authorities, triggers and procedures for activating and terminating the company’s response plan, altering business operations and transferring business knowledge to key employees.
 
• Play out worst-case scenarios. Determine potential impact of a pandemic on company financials using multiple possible scenarios that affect different product lines and/or production sites.
 
• Forecast to allow for employee absences due to factors such as personal illness, family member illness, community containment measures and quarantines, school and/or business closures, and public transportation closures.
 

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• Limit face-to-face contact. Implement guidelines to modify the frequency and type of contact (seating in meetings, office layout, shared workstations) among employees and between employees and customers.
 
• Establish an emergency communications plan and revise periodically. Include key contacts (with backups), chain of communications (including suppliers and customers), and processes for tracking and communicating business and employee status.
 
• Establish non-punitive liberal leave policy. Include policies for employee compensation and sick-leave absences unique to a pandemic.
 

• Establish policies for flexible worksite (telecommuting) and flexible work hours (staggered shifts).
 
• Enhance communications and information technology infrastructures as needed to support employee telecommuting and remote customer access.
 
• Educate employees on prevention. Establish policies for preventing pandemic at the worksite (promoting respiratory hygiene/ cough etiquette, and the control of potentially dangerous infections bodily fluids.
 
• Establish policies for mandatory leave for employees suspected to be ill or exposed to somebody is ill.
 
• Provide sufficient and accessible infection control supplies (hand hygiene products, tissues, and receptacles for their disposal) in all business locations.
 
• Increase frequency of cleaning and disinfecting doorknobs, handles, tools, computers, etc.
 
• Identify community sources. Find up-to-date, reliable pandemic information from community public health, emergency management and other sources, and make sustainable links.
 
• Establish screening procedures efore allowing potentially affected personnel or guests into your business.
 
• Communicate with local and/or state officials about the assets and/or services your business could contribute to the community.
 
• Share best practices with other businesses and organizations in your communities to improve community response efforts.
 

Like a Will Farrell cow-bell performance on Saturday Night Live, I am simply sounding the alarm of caution and preparedness. Remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
 

Be safe, my friends.

 

Keven Moore is director of Risk Management Services for Roeding Insurance (www.roedinginsurance.com). He has a bachelor’s degree from University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both the Lexington and Northern Kentucky offices. Keven can be reached at kmoore@roeding.com.

 

Click here to read more columns from Keven Moore.


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