Homeland Security

National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Implementation Plan One Year Summary

Sustaining Infrastructure and Mitigating Impact to the Economy and the Functioning of Society During a Pandemic

Although social distancing is critical for helping to limit the spread of the pandemic, it will be difficult to maintain if people feel that they do not have access to the resources, information, and support systems necessary to keep them safe. A severe pandemic could dramatically reduce the number of available workers and significantly disrupt the movement of people and goods, which could in turn threaten essential services and operations across our Nation.

Strengthening Community Resiliency

A major U.S. university, partnering with leading businesses, public health officials, and public schools, is developing and testing innovative approaches to increase local community and neighborhood resiliency. To provide local and timely information during a pandemic, they have engaged major technology companies to help deliver community-specific information for pandemic preparedness over the web and to increase the capacity for providing local information to the public by phone. Using existing technologies, large numbers of toll-free calls could be routed to informed community volunteers able to answer phones from their homes. Local schools would also play an important role. Through a new classroom curriculum, students will help their families develop pandemic disaster plans. This model program would also build upon and leverage the existing relationships among students attending K-12 schools and their parents to serve as a nucleus for strengthening community cohesion.

The scale and scope of a pandemic necessitate a dedicated effort and investment beyond typical business continuity planning. The effort to sustain our critical infrastructure and the functioning of society will require the engagement of all levels of government and all segments of society. Ultimately, the effectiveness of our response depends upon individual, family, and community preparedness.

Ensuring Continuity of Federal Government Operations

Over the past year, Federal departments and agencies, including Federal healthcare systems, have been developing and exercising preparedness and response plans that take into account the potential impact of a pandemic on the Federal workforce and are configured to support State, local, and private sector efforts where appropriate.

Streamlining Access to Essential Government Services

With the complete conversion of food benefits delivery from paper coupons to electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards, the Federal Government's Disaster Food Stamp Program is better positioned to reinforce the public health response during a pandemic. This program allows maximum benefits for low-income families with children to help compensate for the loss of free and reduced price school and childcare meals due to school dismissal.  This new technology also facilitates the purchasing of food from supermarkets through self-checkout or drive-through and could minimize the risk of face-to-face contact with others. Current participants of the Food Stamp Program would continue to receive benefits automatically as they are deposited into the client's food stamp account on a monthly basis. Because of the EBT card, extra or extended benefits to current participants can be electronically added to the EBT card.  Since the certification process is more flexible and can be completed by mail, telephone, or internet, rapid food assistance to newly eligible families experiencing financial hardships would be possible during a pandemic, including the possibility of offering them pre-loaded EBT cards.

Pandemic planning summits were conducted in all States to start the process of community-level planning for a pandemic. Congress appropriated $600 million over the past year for State and local preparedness efforts, including the exercising of community mitigation measures, medical surge plans, and mass inoculation plans. As a follow-on to the 2006 planning summits, the National Governors Association, with Federal funding, has launched a series of 10 regional pandemic influenza workshops to enhance intergovernmental and interstate coordination.

The National Plan highlighted the importance of having in place a comprehensive and effective program to ensure the uninterrupted continuation of Federal Government essential functions. The Federal Government has been refining and strengthening continuity plans to account for the unique challenges associated with a pandemic. All Federal departments and agencies are addressing their own pandemic preparedness by completing all elements of a comprehensive checklist. The "meta-checklist" guiding their efforts is available for any institution to use, at www.pandemicflu.gov. In addition, comprehensive guidance on Human Capital Planning for Pandemic Influenza, available to Federal agencies and employees, includes a series of helpful planning guides for managers and supervisors, frequently asked questions and answers, and a newly revised telework guide to assist the Government in continuing operations.

Building a "Chain of Preparedness"

Businesses realize that their ability to cope with a pandemic depends both on steps that they take and on the preparedness levels of the businesses that make up their critical supply chain. One large business recently invited more than 300 of their top suppliers to a pandemic preparedness workshop, so they could pass along pandemic planning information and encourage each one of the attending companies to start to prepare. By sharing information and encouraging planning along their supply chain, this large business enhances its readiness and mentors other smaller businesses to do the same. This "chain of preparedness" improves overall business preparedness and resiliency and enables communities to be better prepared to face a pandemic.

Preparing and Engaging the Private Sector

The private sector has an important role to play in preparing for, responding to, and recovering from a pandemic. The private sector owns and operates over 85 percent of the critical infrastructure in the United States, and therefore represents an integral part of our society because of the critical goods and services that it provides. Moreover, it touches the majority of our population on a daily basis, through employer-employee or vendor-customer relationships. For these reasons, it is essential that the U.S. private sector be engaged in preparedness and response activities for a pandemic. In the event of an influenza pandemic, businesses and other employers will play a key role in protecting employees' health and safety as well as limiting the negative impact to the community, economy, and society.

Over the past year, the Federal Government has produced numerous tools for businesses of all types and sizes to assist them in planning for a

pandemic. Several checklists have been produced that include information for businesses in general (Business Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist), as well as Planning for U.S. Businesses with Overseas Operations,Health Insurer Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist, and Travel Industry Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist. State governments, local governments, and thousands of businesses and employers in this country and worldwide have used the checklists to improve their pandemic planning efforts. Federal agencies have also developed and distributed other tools for businesses to use, including:

  1. Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic: guidance and recommendations on infection control in the workplace, including information on engineering controls, work practices, and personal protective equipment, such as respirators and surgical masks.
  2. Guidance for Protecting Workers against Avian Flu: information for protecting employees who may have been exposed to avian influenza.
  3. Cover Your Cough: flyers and posters showing ways to reduce transmission of respiratory illnesses.
  4. Stopping the Spread of Germs at Work: basic precautions for protecting employee health.
  5. Quick Cards for Employees to Protect Yourself from Avian Flu: general precautions and specific information for poultry employees, laboratory employees, animal handlers, food handlers, and healthcare workers .
  1. Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response Guidance for Healthcare Workers and Healthcare Employers: information and tools helpful to healthcare planners.

In addition, the recently released Community Mitigation Guidance includes specific planning recommendations for aligning business practices with public health protection interventions. The document provides clear steps an employer can take to potentially slow the spread of pandemic influenza, help keep workplaces safe, and reduce the number of people who become sick. All of these tools are posted on www.pandemicflu.gov.

Protecting and Sustaining Critical Infrastructure

Critical infrastructure entities that provide essential services, such as food, water, healthcare, power, and telecommunications, have a special responsibility to prepare and plan for continued operation during a pandemic. Efforts that focus on both protecting health and maintaining continuity of operations are vital parts of pandemic preparedness for critical infrastructure businesses.

Protecting the Nation's critical infrastructure, and the businesses both large and small within these sectors, requires the full cooperation and coordinated actions of the public and private sectors. In the Fall of 2006, the Federal Government, working collaboratively with partners in the public and private sectors, released its Pandemic Influenza Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Guide for Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources (Guide). Tailored to national goals and capabilities, and to the specific needs identified by the private sector, this business continuity guidance represented an important first step in working with the owners and operators of critical infrastructure to prepare for a potentially severe pandemic outbreak. The Guide has served to support private sector pandemic planning by complementing and enhancing, not replacing, their existing continuity planning efforts. With that in mind, the Federal Government developed the Guide to assist businesses whose existing continuity plans generally do not include strategies to protect human health during emergencies such as those caused by pandemic influenza or other diverse natural and manmade disasters.

Over the last year, the Federal Government has conducted an extensive outreach effort to the private sector, particularly critical infrastructure businesses. In the last year, more than 150 presentations, workshops, and fora have been conducted and attended by thousands of key stakeholders from critical infrastructure entities (e. G., healthcare operations, banking and finance entities, operations centers, retail operations, transportation and trucking operations, supply warehousing operations, grocery and food suppliers, and supply distributors) as well as businesses of all types. These information sharing sessions have provided practical action-oriented information to identify essential functions and critical planning elements and to assist businesses in protecting the health of employees and in maintaining continuity of business operations during a pandemic.

Preserving and Protecting Financial Services

A large retail financial institution has institutionalized a good health awareness program to improve employees' understanding of how to protect themselves during a pandemic.  This program includes a website with guidance information by health officials and models to inform employees on the progression of H5N1 globally.  They have modified their human resources policies to support employees during a pandemic outbreak whether they are home due to illness, taking care of a loved one, or because of social distancing advice from local authorities.  Furthermore, this financial institution is assessing all of its vendors to determine whether or not they have pandemic plans that can support the organization's supply chain during a pandemic.

Sustaining the Economy

Sustaining infrastructure and mitigating the pandemic influenza-related impacts to the economy and society require vigilance that extends beyond the workplace. Policymakers and interagency subject matter experts have developed border policies and protocols that aim to slow the spread of disease while limiting, to the extent possible, disruptions to trade and passenger flows. Minimizing economic impacts while limiting disease entry is the primary goal of this approach.

The Federal Government has conducted a number of pandemic preparedness exercises that include financial institutions, public health officials, and other relevant Federal, State, and local officials. Additionally, both the Financial and Banking Information Infrastructure Committee (FBIIC) and the Financial Services Sector Coordinating Council (FSSCC) have established working groups that identify and address issues related to the resilience of the financial services sector during a pandemic. The FSSCC established the Infectious Disease Forum and convenes regular meetings with the FBICC and other stakeholders to discuss preparations and to identify interdependencies in other critical sectors.

Keeping Courts Open to Ensure Justice for All

Building on lessons learned from existing "all-hazards" emergency planning efforts initiated after 9/11, and incorporating lessons learned from their experience planning for and responding to hurricanes, the Supreme Court in Florida developed a strategy for Pandemic Influenza with the goals of protecting the health and safety of everyone at the court facilities and "keeping the courts open" to ensure justice for the people. A detailed planning template was produced to assist local courts in developing their own pandemic plans. Court Emergency Management Teams, consisting of judges, attorneys, deputy clerks, deputy sheriffs, information technology staff, and others, are exploring a number of innovative ideas including holding court proceedings via videoconference, and assembling and managing juries while adhering to social distancing measures.

Maintaining Society and Civil Order

Hurricane Katrina highlighted the necessity for the uninterrupted continuity of the justice system. States must know what the procedures are for requesting Federal law enforcement assistance in the event of an emergency, such as a pandemic outbreak. On May 31, 2006, the Attorney General sent a letter to each Governor outlining the procedures for obtaining assistance under the Emergency Federal Law Enforcement Assistance provisions of the Justice Assistance Act of 1984. The letter recognized that pre-event collaborative planning would have improved the Katrina response and stressed that the goal was "to ensure that any future response, whether to a natural disaster, a pandemic influenza outbreak, or an act of terrorism occurs as expeditiously as possible."

The Federal Government has also engaged in extensive outreach efforts to criminal justice stakeholder groups stressing the importance of pandemic preparedness and encouraging agencies to begin planning now. In May 2006, the Federal Government convened a forum for more than 200

professionals representing a cross-section of all components of the justice system, including police, probation, corrections, and court personnel. Officials shared information on the challenges these stakeholders may face, and the participants discussed and shared "best practices."Furthermore, representatives from each of the 94 U.S. Attorney's Offices met with Federal court representatives to coordinate continuity planning efforts in the event of a pandemic or other emergency.

An influenza pandemic would also present significant challenges to public service response organizations and the communities they serve. Earlier this year, a 3-day forum brought together partners from Federal, State, local, territorial, and tribal emergency medical services, fire, emergency management, law enforcement, and public works in order to develop best practices and model protocols, to coordinate pandemic preparedness activities, and to standardize all-hazards training and exercises.

In the coming months, the Federal Government will work with the private sector to develop and release sector-specific guidelines that will complement and enhance these activities. These efforts by the Federal Government, in partnership with the private sector, are crucial for sustaining society, and for ensuring the continued availability of essential goods and services such as food, water, healthcare, power, transportation, and communications during a pandemic.

One final question deserves to be asked as we review the progress over the past year.

 



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