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Business survey red flags bird flu readiness

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Business survey red flags bird flu readiness

Fifty seven per cent of over a thousand business respondents to a survey on readiness for an outbreak of Bird Flu have taken some steps to plan for it.

The survey was conducted by the Employers & Manufacturers Association (Northern) earlier this month.

A slight majority of businesses are beginning to take the possible threat of a bird flu pandemic seriously and have begun planning, said Paul Jarvie, Manager of EMA's Workplace Health & Safety Services.

"But there are a large number of employers who have decided either not to do anything, or have not yet started to plan for such an event," Mr Jarvie said.

"Medium size and larger companies which may have the resources available to focus on disaster recovery planning are clearly doing so.

"But smaller businesses are most at risk should their staff be quarantined or fall ill, and most of them haven't begun to plan.

"For all respondents, financial planning in the event of a disaster of this sort has a long way to go.

"Information on the types of preparation being undertaken were categorised under several headings (see attachment for full survey and responses).

"Of those who have started preparing, 87 per cent have made a person accountable for their business planning function with 68 per cent of respondents having attended a seminar on the Bird Flu.

"Over 75 per cent have provided education and training to staff and 73 per cent intend to make masks, gloves and tissues available to staff should an outbreak occur.

"Only 56 per cent of respondents say any consideration has been given to what leave entitlements are available and to which staff. This correlates to only 50% of respondents identifying key tasks and roles.

"Providing additional IT services (60 per cent) to allow staff to work from home has been a major focus (70 per cent in all).

"But when it comes to talking with suppliers and customers about contingency plans, businesses have a long way to go.

"Only 27 per cent have considered carrying extra stock, with 25 per cent opening discussions with their suppliers, and 20 per cent with their customers.

"Talking about the issues to their banks (12 per cent) indicates that financial planning has barely commenced, a factor that could have a major impact in the worst case scenario."

ENDS

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