BSI Well Placed to Deal with Flu Pandemic
17 July 2009
Although the symptoms of the H1N1 virus (Swine Flu) are currently similar to a normal bout of winter flu, the World Health Organisation has designated the current alert level for the virus as Phase 6 indicating widespread human infection. So what are businesses doing to ensure business continuity across the travel and accommodation service provider industry?
Well, not a lot according to recent Chartered Management Institute’s Business Continuity Management (BCM) research sponsored by the UK Cabinet Office. The research suggests that only 19% of UK organisations have a robust plan in place to handle a flu pandemic. Whilst public sector organisations seem to be better prepared, the corporate sector appears to be lagging behind with just 11% of SMEs having addressed a flu pandemic in their Business Continuity Plans (BCPs).
No such complacency from BSI, the specialist hotel and meetings booking agency which has implemented a number of initiatives and trigger points into its BCP to handle the current pandemic.
“Many service providers in our sector have business continuity and disaster recovery plans in place which deal with major system failure events but BSI recognised early that BC planning should identify all potential risks including staff absence.” says Trevor Elswood, BSI’s Group Managing Director.
“It would be easy to sit back and think that a pandemic will affect everyone and as such our clients will implement their own travel restrictions on staff which will lead to a decrease in demand for BSI’s services – but this approach is very short-sighted. BSI has a responsibility to its clients to ensure service continuity.”
Over recent years BSI has invested significantly in infrastructure and resources to deliver its BCP. “It is important to have the ICT infrastructure in place to enable easy switching of in-bound calls to alternative sites and remote access capability for home-workers,” Elswood commented.
BSI firstly identified that policy review, skills assessment and communication were key to achieving its BCP objectives. Elswood continued: “BSI already had a DR/BCP Committee in place responsible for identifying and implementing agreed trigger points within the plan as well as established policies in place addressing flexible working practices and travel restrictions.
However, BSI undertook a rigorous training & communication programme which included the effective distribution of information relating to flu signs & symptoms, methods of transmission, coughing/sneezing etiquette, and hand hygiene. We also increased sub-contracted cleaning programmes and clearly communicated to staff the importance of a clear desk at the end of the day to assist the cleaning staff.”
Having reviewed the Government guidelines for a pandemic based scenario and reasonable worst case scenarios, BSI understood that during the peak of a pandemic up to 20% of its staff could be absent. Recognising the potentially crippling impact a worst case scenario could have, BSI implemented a skills assessment and identified additional potential resources to maintain key services. Today, ancillary operational workers from other non-critical departments are fully trained to deliver service provision,” said Elswood.
Restrictions on non-essential travel are also included in BSI policy but Elswood comments that this does not mean losing contact with its client base. “BSI has invested in teleconferencing and online Webex conferencing options to maintain day-to-day contact with each other as well as our customers.”