Pandemic Planning and PR.

October 23, 2006 at 7:40 pm 3 comments

I must admit, before I started my research, I was oblivious to the dangers pandemics present and oblivious to the need for planning, but not anymore. Pandemics are unpredictable and deadly. A pandemic essentially starts out as influenza from one species and mutates with an influenza strain from another species to develop a virus to which humans have no immunities and no vaccine for. (World Health Organization, 2005) Since there is no vaccine available (and a pandemic vaccine can only be made once a specific virus is identified) severe and lengthy illness and high fatality rates usually occur. The World Health Organization predicts the next pandemic will most likely kill 2-7.5 million people and will be world wide within three months (due to ease of global travel).

So what does this mean for PR professionals or businesses in general ? Well a lot actually.  It is estimated that at any one time, 40% of staff (at any business) could be off work nursing their own illness or that of a family member for weeks at a time. (Heffes, 2006) That means, certain jobs will have to be put on the back burner, and staff will probably have to be reassigned to essential jobs in order to keep business running smoothly. It is the job of the PR professional to ensure communication within an organization is clear and concise to avoid additional problems while a pandemic is occurring. It is also the job of the PR professional to liaison with the media to get the word out on what that particular company is doing to help with the pandemic. Working with health professionals is also important because they hold the key to fighting the pandemic, so the better communication a company has with the health professionals, the better off the employees of that company will be when it comes time to distribute a vaccine. Pandemics also pose a HUGE financial risk. “Experts say pandemics have the capability of killing over a half a million people in the U.S., hospitalizing more than 2 million and costing the U.S. economy a staggering $160 billion to $670 billion.” (Heffes, 2006) Once again, it is the part of the PR professional to ensure communication between their company and its financial partners is clear and concise to soften the financial blow as much as possible. PR professionals need to look at things like: insurance policies, capital investments etc. They must also communicate with staff on whether their leave of absence will be paid for or whether new technology will be brought in/purchased in order to allow staff to work from home.

Although a pandemic may never happen, you can see it’s VERY important to be prepared and have a plan in place. Once a pandemic hits, there will no doubt be panic and that will just make it harder for PR professionals to get their message across to staff, so discussions on pandemic procedures now, will help make the transition a lot smoother. Now don’t get all freaked out about a possible pandemic. Just remember, regular hand washing and minimizing the amount of time spent touching your face, will help you prevent infection. Posted by: Ashley

For more information on pandemics or planning checklists, I highly recommend the following sites:           

Heffes, E. (Sept 2006) Planning For The Inevitable, Financial Executive (Vol 22 Iss 7Retrieved Oct. 13/06 from: http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?did=1127257161&sid=4&Fmt=4&clientld=20370&RQT=309&VName=PQDt. Good overall information on pandemic planning with good statistics and examples from past pandemics and scares.            

Cheng, M. (2005) WHO Influenza Pandemic Handbook for Journalists. World Health Organization Retrieved Oct. 13/06 from: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/new/2005/nw08/en Excellent source for anything you ever wanted to know about pandemics.

Health Canada(Oct. 2005) The Role of Risk Communications in Pandemic Planning. Retrieved Oct. 13/06 from:   http:// hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/intactiv/pandem-flu/questionsbk5_e.html Great information for PR professionals about how to get your message across without scaring people.

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Public Relations & Communication Education The BlackBerry

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Chris Clarke  |  October 28, 2006 at 2:01 am

    Nice job, Ashley! Last summer, the college had to write a pandemic plan and one of the CCPR students was hired to write it. I don’t know who it was, but I suppose Dana would know.

    Reply
  • 2. prclass  |  October 28, 2006 at 4:10 pm

    Hi Chris

    Yes Ashley did do a great job on her post. The pandemic concept is quite frightening, and the press keeps using the word ‘inevitable’.

    Melissa Steele from last year was hired on a four month contract to help with the Fanshawe College pandemic plan. Her contract has now been extended. If you were at the program orientation in late August Melissa was one of the graduate speakers.

    My understanding is that all government sector employers are mandated to have a pandemic plan in place. It might also have something to do with the number of employees. While I do not know all the details I have gleaned that there is a committee of external stakeholders, heavily weighted towards the healthcare sector , the college sector, and essential services, and that completing the pandemic plan is part of the committee responsibilities. We are partnering with at least one other similar sized institution.

    I noticed that there will be a flu shot clinic at the college in a few weeks. Make time to get your shot.

    Dana

    Reply
  • 3. Jamie Gill  |  October 31, 2006 at 9:56 pm

    Hello Ashley,

    I just read your post, and I agree with Chris and Dana, you did a great job on it. In class we had to go around the class and discuss our Business Reports, I specifically rememebered your information, and that is why I decided to read your blog and reply to it.

    From talking to you and reading your post, to me you have researched well and wrote great information. When you first told me about Pandamic Planning, I was shocked, it was such a big concern. If you remember I asked you what countries were at risk, and you said all countries, which made me even more surprised. However, when you clarified and explained why Pandamic Planning is important and a concern, I understood your research and your arguments.

    Again, Great Job Ashley
    Jamie Gill

    Reply

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