Pandemic Preparedness Takes Center Stage

In the event of a pandemic outbreak, transportation organizations may face absentee rates of up to 40%, said Lisa Koonin from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, Washington) during a recent discussion sponsored by the Transportation Marketing & Communications Association (Waconia, Minn.).

Koonin advised organizations to plan for the potential impact of a pandemic flu outbreak. She said businesses will play a key role in protecting employee's health and safety as well as limiting the negative impact to the economy and society as a whole. "You can't turn your shoulder," said Koonin. "You must do everything you can to fight it."

Con-way, Inc., a $ 4.2 billion freight transportation and logistics company based in San Mateo, Calif., formed a cross-functional pandemic task force over a year ago, Randy Mullett, v.p. of government affairs for the company, reported during the tele-conference. It now has a plan in place designed to protect employees, business, customers and shareholders.

"We realized the downside was enormous and it was irresponsible to do nothing," Mullett said. "On the upside, we discovered it didn't cost a lot to do, plus we discovered many unanticipated benefits that leverage our day-to-day business operations."

Con-way's pandemic preparedness plan is based on the following charter:

  • Identify critical operations personnel and their backups, and develop contingency plans for personnel replacement.
  • Create a detailed communications plan and structure.
  • Establish operating protocols to properly secure facilities and protect customer freight.
  • Establish and maintain emergency transportation resources to support dissemination of critical medical supplies to key constituents.
  • Ensure that every Con-way location has a proper supply of anti-infection and health maintenance supplies to protect employees
  • Adapt or amend benefit plans to facilitate fast and efficient access for employees.
  • Ensure employees are adequately supported and are able to access local medical care in the event of infection.

Con-way representatives have also met with the White House and Department of Homeland Security to ensure emergency orders recognize the needs and concerns of the transportation and logistics sector.

CDC’s Koonin said she hopes the transportation industry takes a pro-active approach like Con-way Inc. "There will be transportation issues," she said, "and I encourage all businesses to take action now. Transportation companies have resources available to get started."

Further resources and information including a “Pandemic Checklist for Business,” can be found at www.pandemicflu.gov and www.cdc.gov/business.

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