Companies in the southern hemisphere – so those in South Africa – should be seriously implementing pandemic preparedness plans as the flu season gets underway.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday raised the severity level of the H1N1 flu – better known as swine flu – to a level six, or pandemic, rating. It did this largely on the spread of the virus through Australia, which means it is now present and multiplying in just about every region of the world.
Australia, like South Africa, is in its winter flu season now.
Ironically, the huge media hype at the outbreak of the H1N1 epidemic means that many newspapers are reluctanct to talk it up now that it's been declared a pandemic. But Gartner analysts warn that companies in the southern hemisphere should ensure they have have got business continuity plans in place in order to get through the winter unscathed.
As part of their business continuity planning, Gartner has advises companies to implement plans that include the following:
* Identify existing and projected critical skills shortages;
* Initiate necessary cross-training, testing or certification of personnel;
* Ensure that cross-trained personnel have the appropriate system/applications access rights;
* Determine which business operations are sustainable, and at what level, and the likely downtime for normal business operations during periods with absenteeism rates of 40% or higher;
* Immediately initiate rigorous, ongoing and well-documented testing to isolate and remediate identified problem areas;
* Prepare for travel restrictions to be significant in the event of an epidemic and near-universal in the event of a pandemic; and
* Implement a communications programme that ensures that all personnel are aware of the business¹s pandemic response plans, as well as measures they can take to limit the spread of the disease-including practices as simple yet effective as regular hand-washing.