Resources: Pandemic Preparedness Decentralized Operational Capabilities

Pandemic Preparedness Decentralized Operational Capabilities   Public Health officials tell us that a Pandemic is only a matter of “when” and not “If.” If organizations plan to require employees to work from home during a Pandemic, it just makes sense to periodically test an organization’s ability to function in a decentralized mode before the actual Pandemic. Social distancing is a tried and true method of limiting contagion, so

1. Develop standard office procedures for decentralized work, establish standards and measurements for working from home, including expected work outputs. Train all employees on working from home procedures. Prepare Management Information Systems (MIS) division to relocate to an alternative site using hardened, redundant communication systems.

2. Select a division (or other operating unit) monthly and announce all employees will "Work from Home" and will sign on to their electronic workspace from home for a week.........Afterward, determine what worked well and what did not. Learn, implement corrective actions, and re-test in 30 days.

3. Once a quarter have a multi-divisional (or Total Program) "work from home week"....Determine what worked well and what did not. Learn and re-test as soon as practical.

4. Once a year have an agency-wide work from home week.  Learn, implement corrective actions and replace ineffective managers and executives as necessary. Firing ineffective employees may be distasteful and unfortunate, but the Nation's future and the lives of millions of American's may depend on organizational Readiness.

It makes no sense to me to identify a few "Mission Essential" functions like the Executive Command Group and then find out in an actual disaster that the Executive Command Group cannot effectively control the necessary functions of the Agency. It would seem a little late to say to Americans "Your Social Security checks will be discontinued until further notice." ...or tell hospitals "We'll process your reimbursements as soon as the pandemic is over."

I really do appreciate how hard this effort will be, but I don't see any real alternative to hard work and proactive measures. I believe that problems experienced by one Division during a "Work from Home Week" would almost certainly be common problems that can be corrected for all future Divisions exercising the "Work from Home" program. Thus, the learning curve may be much shallower than initially expected. These exercises will be extraordinarily challenging but they are the stuff of true Readiness and the essence of real Emergency Management.

Advanced Policy Directives.

Imagine how many hospitals in America will fail if the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and major American healthcare insurance companies fail to  implement simplified reimbursement and billing procedures to hospitals for use during a Pandemic. The saddest aspect of this would be the same Agency that predicted the Pandemic failed to prepare for it. It needs to be said that HHS and DHS both have wonderful dedicated folks working hard and serving America with distinction. This paper is not intended as a criticism to any agency or firm.  I am simply concerned about our overall lack of National Readiness as evidenced by a lack of advanced policy directives.

The same concept of Readiness applies to many other Private and Public Sector organizations providing critical products and services. How many Americans have sufficient financial reserves to survive a 12-18 month Pandemic if their place of employment should fail and work is scarce? Are state unemployment offices prepared to pay the number of unemployment claims associated with a Pandemic?

The fact is checks have to get out, payroll has to be electronically transmitted, Healthcare and Public Health services need to be provided, Public Safety, and Public Works (like waste management) services have to be performed. We had better understand how essential services will be provided using a decentralized paradigm before Disaster Day (D-Day).

I know I have been harping on things for a long time now; like developing a patient evacuation system and a citizen relocation and resettlement plan for select Federal Planning Scenarios where relocation is necessary.  New Orleans during hurricane Katrina taught us how critical emergency services were, especially for persons with disabilities, patients and seniors. I hope those very sad lessons were in fact learned and not just observed (as one IAEM-Lister put it). A repeat of that 2005 experience would be a failure of historic proportions and a repeat of what was already a National disgrace.

Also, we need to develop Federal Reserve Inventories (FRI) of food (Meals Ready to Eat), medical supplies and equipment, over the counter (OTC) medications, chronic condition pharmaceuticals, test kits and supplies and life's necessities the things everyone seeks to purchase just prior to a forecasted hurricane or major snowstorm.

There is nothing America can’t do when it puts its collective mind to it.  We proved this point in 1969 when we put a man on the moon and we can do it in Domestic Preparedness. It is time to set lofty goals and to achieve them for America’s sake.

© JVR Health Readiness, Inc. 2008

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