In the event of an influenza pandemic, colleges and universities will play an integral role in protecting the health and safety of students, employees and their families. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have developed the following checklist as a framework to assist colleges and universities to develop and/or improve plans to prepare for and respond to an influenza pandemic. Further information on pandemic influenza can be found at www.pandemicflu.gov.
Identify a pandemic coordinator and response team (including campus health services and mental health staff, student housing personnel, security, communications staff, physical plant staff, food services director, academic staff and student representatives) with defined roles and responsibilities for preparedness, response, and recovery planning.
Delineate accountability and responsibility as well as resources for key stakeholders engaged in planning and executing specific components of the operational plan. Assure that the plan includes timelines, deliverables, and performance measures.
Incorporate into the pandemic plan scenarios that address college/university functioning based upon having various levels of illness in students and employees and different types of community containment interventions. Plan for different outbreak scenarios including variations in severity of illness, mode of transmission, and rates of infection in the community. Issues to consider include:
cancellation of classes, sporting events and/or other public events;
closure of campus, student housing, and/or public transportation;
contingency plans for students who depend on student housing and food services (e.g., international students or students who live too far away to travel home);
contingency plans for maintaining research laboratories, particularly those using animals; and
stockpiling non-perishable food and equipment that may be needed in the case of an influenza pandemic.
Work with state and local public health and other local authorities to identify legal authority, decision makers, trigger points, and thresholds to institute community containment measures such as closing (and re-opening) the college/university. Identify and review the college/university's legal responsibilities and authorities for executing infection control measures, including case identification, reporting information about ill students and employees, isolation, movement restriction, and provision of healthcare on campus.
Ensure that pandemic influenza planning is consistent with any existing college/university emergency operations plan, and is coordinated with the pandemic plan of the community and of the state higher education agency.
Work with the local health department to discuss an operational plan for surge capacity for healthcare and other mental health and social services to meet the needs of the college/university and community during and after a pandemic.
Establish an emergency communication plan and revise regularly. This plan should identify key contacts with local and state public health officials as well as the state's higher education officials (including back-ups) and the chain of communications, including alternate mechanisms.
Test the linkages between the college/university's Incident Command System and the Incident Command Systems of the local and/or state health department and the state's higher education agency.
Implement an exercise/drill to test your plan, and revise it regularly.
Participate in exercises of the community's pandemic plan.
Develop a recovery plan to deal with consequences of the pandemic (e.g., loss of students, loss of staff, financial and operational disruption).
Share what you have learned from developing your preparedness and response plan with other colleges/universities to improve community response efforts.
Develop and disseminate alternative procedures to assure continuity of instruction (e.g., web-based distance instruction, telephone trees, mailed lessons and assignments, instruction via local radio or television stations) in the event of college/university closures.
Develop a continuity of operations plan for maintaining the essential operations of the college/university including payroll; ongoing communication with employees, students and families; security; maintenance; as well as housekeeping and food service for student housing.
Implement infection control policies and procedures that help limit the spread of influenza on campus (e.g. promotion of hand hygiene, cough/sneeze etiquette). (See Infection Control www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic/healthprofessional.htm). Make good hygiene a habit now in order to help protect employees and students from many infectious diseases such as influenza. Encourage students and staff to get annual influenza vaccine (www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/preventing.htm).
Procure, store and provide sufficient and accessible infection prevention supplies (e.g., soap, alcohol-based hand hygiene products, tissues and receptacles for their disposal).
Establish policies for employee and student sick leave absences unique to pandemic influenza (e.g., non-punitive, liberal leave).
Establish sick leave policies for employees and students suspected to be ill or who become ill on campus. Employees and students with known or suspected pandemic influenza should not remain on campus and should return only after their symptoms resolve and they are physically ready to return to campus.
Establish a pandemic plan for campus-based healthcare facilities that addresses issues unique to healthcare settings (See www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic/healthprofessional.htm). Ensure health services and clinics have identified critical supplies needed to support a surge in demand and take steps to have those supplies on hand.
Adopt CDC travel recommendations (www.cdc.gov/travel/) during an influenza pandemic and be able to support voluntary and mandatory movement restrictions. Recommendations may include restricting travel to and from affected domestic and international areas, recalling nonessential employees working in or near an affected area when an outbreak begins, and distributing health information to persons who are returning from affected areas.
Assess readiness to meet communications needs in preparation for an influenza pandemic, including regular review, testing, and updating of communications plans that link with public health authorities and other key stakeholders (See www.hhs.gov/pandemicflu/plan/sup10.html).
Develop a dissemination plan for communication with employees, students, and families, including lead spokespersons and links to other communication networks. Ensure language, culture and reading level appropriateness in communications.
Develop and test platforms (e.g., hotlines, telephone trees, dedicated websites, local radio or television) for communicating college/university response and actions to employees, students, and families.
Assure the provision of redundant communication systems/channels that allow for the expedited transmission and receipt of information
Advise employees and students where to find up-to-date and reliable pandemic information from federal, state and local public health sources.
Disseminate information about the college/university's pandemic preparedness and response plan. This should include the potential impact of a pandemic on student housing closure, and the contingency plans for students who depend on student housing and campus food service, including how student safety will be maintained for those who remain in student housing.
Disseminate information from public health sources covering routine infection control (e.g., hand hygiene, coughing /sneezing etiquette), pandemic influenza fundamentals (e.g., signs and symptoms of influenza, modes of transmission), personal and family protection and response strategies, and the at-home care of ill students or employees and their family members.
Anticipate and plan communications to address the potential fear and anxiety of employees, students and families that may result from rumors or misinformation.