(CIDRAP Source Weekly Briefing) – Your company is preparing for a pandemic, but your employees aren’t. Can that possibly make sense?Companies have their reasons for hesitating to communicate with employees about a possible future pandemic. The four reasons I hear most often:Companies don’t want to scare people.Companies don’t have their ducks in a row yet.Getting anybody to listen is hard.There’s nothing for employees to do anyway.I want to respond here to #4. The fact is you actually need employees to do the following before a pandemic begins.You need employees to know that influenza pandemics are unpredictableThe next pandemic may start tomorrow, or it may not come for years. When it comes, it may be so mild we’ll wonder why we worried, or so severe we’ll think all our preparations were for naught. Preparedness starts with resilience; it is mostly about getting ready for the unexpected.You need employees to prepare at homeCompanies have a deep continuity stake in their employees’ home pandemic preparedness. The value of masks and hand sanitizers in the workplace goes way down if employees don’t have them or don’t use them at home. An employee who gets the flu on the bus will be lost to the company as surely as one who gets the flu at work. Healthy employees are likelier to come to work in a pandemic if they believe their families are adequately prepared and adequately protected. Helping your employees get ready at home is thus a major piece of helping your company have a workforce when the pandemic comes.You need employees to prepare at workNo matter where your company stands in the endless tug-of-war between centralization and decentralization of operations, manufacturing, sales and marketing, and other functions, a serious pandemic will be a big-time decentralizer. To a greater extent than you’re probably planning for, facilities, departments, and small local work groups will be on their own. Just as your supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link, your company’s ability to cope internally will depend on local and even individual preparedness.I sometimes ask clients who seek my advice on something other than pandemic risk communication what they’re doing to get ready for a pandemic. Usually I’m assured that somebody is looking into that. “But what about you?” I ask. “What’s your role in the company’s pandemic preparedness?” I’m not hearing many answers yet.You need employees to prepare emotionallyGetting ready for a crisis is as much about emotional preparedness as logistical preparedness. When people first become aware of a terrifying new threat, they normally go through what’s called an adjustment reaction. They imagine what the crisis might be like, rehearsing some of what they will probably feel when the time comes. People who have gone through their adjustment reaction before a crisis can cope much better than people who go through this unavoidable stage belatedly, while the crisis is raging.You need employees to know how your company has preparedIf you expect them to implement your pandemic plan when the time comes, then employees need to know about it beforehand. At the very least, they need to know that you have one. Employees are also much likelier to come to work in a pandemic if they know what sort of preparations have been made in their workplace.You need employees to help your company prepareRead the New York Academy of Medicine report, “Redefining Readiness: Terror Planning Through the Eyes of the Public,” by Roz D. Lasker, MD.Her 2004 study convincingly demonstrates that most government terrorism-response plans are close to useless because they were developed without significant citizen involvement. Lasker asked people how they would react in specified terrorism scenarios. They told her they wouldn’t react the way planners thought they would. And then they told her how the plans had to change. Many company pandemic plans have the same fatal defect: insufficient employee involvement.You need employees to see you as a useful source of pandemic informationAfter the virus hits the fan, pandemic information (and misinformation) will be everywhere. Competition for your employees’ attention will be fierce. Now is the time to establish in their minds that your company is a relevant and reliable supplement to official sources of pandemic information. When planning your pandemic preparedness messaging, then, consider this important question: What should you say now that will predispose employees to listen to what you have to say then? Suppose you put out messages now that sound extremely confident and extremely reassuring about the state of your preparedness, for example. If a pandemic begins and turns out much tougher than you predicted, you will already have forfeited much of your credibility with employees.You need employees to think through their conflicting pandemic responsibilitiesIn a severe pandemic, healthy employees will face a crucial dilemma: come to work or stay home. Nobody knows how anybody (your employees included) will resolve this dilemma when the time comes to face it. But we do know that thinking about the dilemma in advance will help.The issue isn’t just about getting paid, although pandemic pay policies are an important component of prepandemic communication. It’s about conflicting responsibilities and conflicting loyalties to self, family, and employer. How empathically you acknowledge this dilemma now will have a lot to do with whether you still have a workforce when a pandemic arrives.You need employees to cross-train for their emergency duty stationsShips at sea have an emergency duty station for every member of the crew; stewards aren’t stewards when the ship catches fire. The same should be true for business pandemic planning. You have to shift your focus from continuity planning to discontinuity planning—prioritizing which few functions are so crucial that your company will sacrifice everything else to keep them going, even in a severe pandemic. Once you’ve done your discontinuity planning, you can start cross-training employees for their emergency duty stations. Among other benefits, people are far more likely to come to work to help manage the emergency than to do their routine jobs.You need employees to volunteerVolunteerism is a defining characteristic of crisis situations. Millions of people respond to emergencies by wanting to help. And pandemic survivors will be uniquely qualified to help: They will be closer to immune than anyone else. Nobody knows what the next pandemic’s case-fatality rate will be, but the horrific 1918 pandemic killed 2% to 3% of those who got sick. That means upwards of 97% of people who became infected got better—and were ideal candidates for a “Survivor Volunteer Corps.”Now is the time to put this question to your employees: “Suppose a pandemic comes, you get the flu, and you recover. What skills do you have that can help?” Some health agencies have already started developing an employee pandemic skills registry. I’d like to see more companies doing the same thing (complete with liability waivers). Apart from the immense practical value of such a registry, think about what you’d be communicating to your employees: “There may be a pandemic. You may get sick. You’ll probably get better. You’ll be needed.”Now—not laterNo matter how good a job you do of warning employees about the need for pandemic preparedness, a lot of them won’t pay much attention till the last minute. Just-in-time pandemic communication will be crucial. But prepandemic communication is crucial, too.Start talking.An internationally renowned expert in risk communication and crisis communication, Peter Sandman speaks and consults widely on communication aspects of pandemic preparedness. Dr. Sandman, Deputy Editor, contributes an original column to CIDRAP Source Weekly Briefing every other week. Most of his risk communication writing is available without charge at the Peter Sandman Risk Communication Web Site, which includes an index of pandemic-related writing on the site.
NEW YORK –– One day short of the two-year anniversary of their epic six-overtime classic – the game that trumps any other in the storied canon of Big East tournament games – Syracuse and Connecticut will renew their rivalry at Madison Square Garden tonight (7 p.m., ESPN) in the tournament semifinals.But leading up to the game, the focus has been cast on one player who is the only remaining Husky star from the night and early morning that was March 12 and 13 of 2009. He is also the unquestioned star of this year’s tournament after his last-second quarterfinal heroics Thursday.He is Kemba Walker. And despite the fact that Jim Boeheim’s acclaimed 2-3 zone muzzled Walker into his worst performance of the season on Feb. 2, the SU head coach expects the Walker who has a knack to carry his team and hit big shots to show up versus Syracuse Friday.‘I don’t take anything out of the (Feb. 2) Connecticut game,’ Boeheim said after Syracuse’s 79-72 quarterfinal win over St. John’s on Thursday. ‘I don’t think they played well. Kemba had probably his worst night of the year and we know that wont happen (Friday) night.’On Friday, Boeheim expects the Walker who, as a freshman two years ago, hit a shot with 1.1 seconds left in regulation to force the first overtime of six. He expects the Walker who earned first team All-Big East honors earlier this week, only to top it Thursday with a 24-point performance in a heart-stopping upset of top-seeded Pittsburgh – capped off by a beautiful walk-off step-back jumper which left Pitt center Gary McGhee in a heap on the floor.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textHe expects that Walker, the Walker who pillaged pretty much every team but Boeheim’s this year. Not the Walker who only went for eight points – the only game this season where Walker has been held to single digits – in the then-No. 6 Huskies 66-58 loss to SU on Feb. 2.But if Walker’s history against SU foretells anything, it is that the Orange has his number. Two years ago in the six-overtime classic, a then jumper-less Walker struggled in an abysmal 4-of-18 and 0-of-7 shooting performance from behind the 3-point line.Two years ago, though, Walker wasn’t the one and only savior and workhorse for a loaded No. 4 UConn. He has been this year and was expected to be on Feb. 2. In that contest, Walker struggled against a scouting report devised by another former star of the Big East tournament – Gerry McNamara. McNamara conveyed to the Orange guards that within the 2-3 zone they must not let Walker shoot, never mind score. He only shot the ball six times in a second half during which the Huskies took 27 shots.After the game, it left UConn head coach Jim Calhoun so frustrated he refused to talk about any Husky player other than Jeremy Lamb, who scored 22 points.‘Individually I don’t have comment on any of our players except Jeremy,’ Calhoun said. ‘I thought he played terrific.’‘I thought tonight we got beat,’ Calhoun added. ‘But I don’t think we should have gotten beat.’The man who stepped up for Walker that night, Lamb, said he felt the mentally tough Bronx-native Walker let the referees take over his game.‘I just think he let the referees get in his head,’ Lamb said. ‘Once he didn’t get certain calls he got a little frustrated.’Frustrated is the last thing Walker will be Friday, his complete confidence super-saturated after his heroics Thursday.Boeheim is bracing for him. He knows he has two players left over — Rick Jackson and Kris Joseph — from the six-overtime game where he said he had ‘never been prouder of any team he ever coached.’Boeheim’s two include Jackson, who has grown to become the Big East’s Defensive Player of the Year and best big man two years after coming up in the clutch. He slammed home a game-tying dunk with four seconds left in the first overtime in 2009, and set a timely screen to free Andy Rautins up for a game-tying 3-pointer in the third overtime.Still, though, tonight isn’t about Jackson. It’s about Walker. And the same number of points Boeheim held Walker to two years ago and the last time out, eight, is the amount of games Boeheim thinks the energizer bunny Walker could play in this tournament. Yes, eight. That is the kind of regard Boeheim holds Walker — even if the coach has held him in check.Said Boeheim: ‘I think Kemba Walker could play eight nights in a row.’[email protected] Daily Orange beat writer predictions:Brett LoGiuratoSyracuse 70, Connecticut 68Can’t you just feel a Fab Melo game-winning layup? March Madness!Tony OliveroSyracuse 68, Connecticut 66If there is one team Kemba doesnt want to play it’s Cuse. Eight versus the zone in the six-overtime game. Eight on Feb. 2.Andrew L. JohnSyracuse 73, Connecticut 71Four wins in four days is pretty difficult to pull off, even for the best player in the country. Published on March 10, 2011 at 12:00 pm Facebook Twitter Google+ Comments