Businesses in the travel industry—including travel agencies and air, rail, bus, and cruise lines—will play a key role in protecting the health and safety of their personnel and travelers in the event of a pandemic. Planning and coordinating with public health and emergency management agencies at the local, state, national, and international levels are critical.
To help with this, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have developed the following checklist. It identifies important steps that businesses in the travel industry can take now to prepare for an influenza pandemic. This checklist provides a general framework for developing a pandemic influenza plan. Individual businesses will need to adapt this checklist to meet their unique needs and circumstances. Many of these activities will also help travel-related businesses prepare for other kinds of emergencies. The key planning activities in this checklist are meant to complement and enhance existing all-hazards emergency/business contingency plans. For further information on general business emergency planning and continuity of operations, see www.ready.gov/business/. Further information on pandemic influenza planning can be found at www.pandemicflu.gov.
Plan for the impact of an influenza pandemic on your business.
Identify employees and critical resources (e.g. suppliers, sub-contractors, products, and logistics) necessary to continue business and financial operations for each location and functional area in the event of a pandemic. Identify back-ups for essential employee roles, contracted services, and supply sources.
Determine the potential impact of a pandemic on continuity of operations and company finances.
Within the scope of your business continuity-of-operations plan:
Identify a pandemic coordinator or team;
Develop a pandemic preparedness plan; and
Ask your employees and traveler representatives for their input.
Develop a plan to continue operations that anticipates, responds to, and supports voluntary or mandatory travel restrictions or cancellations, border restrictions, event restrictions, and quarantines.
Identify alternative methods to continue your business, if feasible, in the event of major travel disruptions. Consider creative ways for travelers to conduct business and pursue recreation, given potential limitations.
Assign specific persons to monitor CDC travel health notices, U.S. State Department travel warnings, and advice for travelers from the World Health Organization about measures that may limit travel at the international, national, state, and local levels. Go to www.pandemicflu.gov/travel/ to obtain information about locations where you operate.
Establish and test communications systems between corporate decision makers and those individuals in your business that are monitoring the pandemic situation.
Determine possible insurance coverage limitations or cancellations which may take place in agency, business, or traveler plans during an influenza pandemic. Provide summary information about insurance coverage changes to customers and staff.
Develop and maintain up-to-date communications contacts with key international, national, state, and/or local public health and emergency management agencies/organizations. (See www.pandemicflu.gov.)
Develop communications with public health authorities in your locations in order to learn about events that would signal a pandemic influenza emergency, and circumstances in which you would activate your company’s preparedness plan and alter business operations (e.g. limit or shut down operations in affected locations).
Identify an internal chain of communications, including back-up provisions of systems, channels, and people to ensure capacity to send and receive information in the event of an emergency. Identify processes for tracking and communicating travel operations and employee status.
Develop contingency plans for employee absences that may occur due to personal or family member illness, community mitigation measures, quarantines, school or business closures, and possible public transportation shutdowns.
Develop a telecommuting system (if feasible) for your key employees. Determine equipment, computer specifications, files, programs, and internet access needed to enable work at home.
Train your workforce, including contractors and retirees, to perform critical functions in case employees who normally perform those functions are absent. Share essential business knowledge with key employees.
Develop “what if” scenarios and conduct practice drills to test your plan. Participate in drills conducted by local, state, or national governments to test linkages between the company and relevant authorities. Revise the plan based on lessons learned.
Plan for the impact of an influenza pandemic on your employers and travelers.
Become familiar with social distancing methods that may be used during a pandemic to modify the frequency and type of person-to-person contact in your workplace (e.g., reducing hand-shaking, limiting face-to-face meetings and shared workstations, promoting teleworking, offering liberal/unscheduled leave policies, staggered shifts).
Encourage good hygiene at the workplace. Provide employees and staff with information about the importance of hand hygiene (information can be found at www.cdc.gov/cleanhands/) as well as convenient access to soap and water and/or alcohol-based hand gel (containing at least 60% alcohol) in your facility. Educate employees about covering their cough to prevent the spread of germs. (See www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/covercough.htm.)
Coordinate planning efforts with public health authorities to carry out infection control measures, including case identification, screening and reporting information about ill travelers or employees, isolation of persons who are ill, quarantine, movement restriction, and provision of basic health care in the countries/jurisdictions where you operate. (See www.flu.gov/at-risk/travelers/index.html.) Train the appropriate employees to carry out these activities.
Establish policies and procedures to be implemented during an influenza pandemic.
Establish and clearly communicate policies on sick leave, family leave, and employee compensation to workforce.
Establish compensation and sick-leave policies that encourage ill workers to stay home until their symptoms resolve (i.e., nonpunitive, liberal leave). During a pandemic, employees with influenza-like symptoms should not enter the worksite to keep from infecting other workers.
Establish policies for alternate or flexible worksites (e.g., videoconferencing and telecommuting) and work hours. Establish policies to allow designated employees to work from home.
Follow CDC guidance for managing employees who become ill or who believe they have been exposed to pandemic influenza (e.g., mandatory sick leave, limiting contact with others, appropriate use of masks, provision of health-care services as appropriate). (See www.cdc.gov/travel/other/avian_flu_ig_airlines_021804.htm.)
Allocate resources to protect your employees and travelers during an influenza pandemic.
Procure adequate infection control supplies such as hand-hygiene products, appropriate personal protective equipment, tissues, and waste receptacles. Ensure convenient access for all employees.
Maintain a contact list of current suppliers and develop an alternate list of providers for critical supplies and essential resources and services.
Increase communications and information technology capacity to enable employee telecommuting and remote customer access. Establish policies and procedures to protect the security of any documents or information taken from the workplace in order to telecommute from a remote location.
Identify medical advisory resources for helping your company interpret and accurately communicate pandemic influenza information.
Educate and communicate with your employees and travelers.
Develop a communications plan for reaching employees, travelers, and other key contacts. Ensure that mobile and emergency contact information is regularly updated. Develop mechanisms for notifying employees and travelers of changes to travel or workplace operations during a pandemic, and inform them of these mechanisms. Identify a lead spokesperson for your company, and link to important communication channels. (See www.hhs.gov/pandemicflu/plan/sup10.html.)
Ensure that your communications plan includes methods for communicating pandemic status using telephone information lines or dedicated Web sites, and post status information quickly and consistently.
Train coordinators, supervisors, and other employees who have a role in implementing the pandemic plan.
Encourage employees and travelers to create an emergency preparedness plan for themselves and their families. (See “Individual Planning”.)
Develop and distribute information that provides clear, accurate messages about necessary travel restrictions or changes, based on information obtained from international, national, state, and local authorities. (See www.flu.gov/at-risk/travelers/index.html.)
Obtain and distribute information about personal and family protection and response strategies (e.g. hand washing, use of hand gels, cough/sneeze etiquette, emergency contingency plans, travel policies, home care options for employees and family members who become ill). (See “ Individual Planning”.)
Build a mechanism for promptly addressing employee and traveler fears, anxieties, rumors, and misinformation into your communications plan.
Advise employees and travelers of the business’ legal responsibilities, and its authority to implement infection control measures and other actions, such as:
Required reporting of travelers or employees who become ill;
Isolation of persons who become ill;
Restrictions to travel or other movement; and
Transferrance of ill persons to health-care providers as necessary.
Coordinate with external organizations and help your community.
Review international, national, state, and local public health and emergency management agencies’ pandemic plans in areas where you operate, if possible. Be sure that your pandemic plan is coordinated with the pandemic plans developed for your location. (See “State and Local Governments”.)
Volunteer to work with international, national, state, and local public health agencies, emergency responders, and law enforcement to help with their planning processes, share your pandemic plans, and increase your understanding of their responsibilities, resources, and capabilities.
Communicate with local and/or state public health agencies and/or emergency responders about the assets and/or services your business could contribute to the community where you operate in the event of a pandemic.
Collaborate with others in the travel industry to share best practices and lessons learned to improve community response efforts.