When we talk about business continuity today, the first thing that often comes to mind is a major disaster or high profile crisis. There seems to be terrible events every time we turn on the news. While these events are often dramatic, few impact business continuity in a significant way. Security and business continuity managers are monitoring events and their risk to personnel on a real-time basis, but often health threats are not on their radar when it comes to their risk to business operations.

In fact, it’s more likely that an infectious disease outbreak could significantly disrupt your workplace than the risk of terrorist attacks, earthquakes and bombings all put together. Over 50 percent of companies have had an infectious disease case in the workplace – so while these events are rarely in the news, they impact operations every day around the world.

The good news is that most health threats are known – we know how to reduce the risk of spreading and how to manage them. Here are five ways you can deal with these health threats and keep your business going:


  1. Monitor global health incidents – Your security and crisis management teams are probably already monitoring for civil unrest and terror incidents, but monitoring health threats is also critical.  Outbreaks can evolve very quickly and, once active, can last for days, weeks or months.  Ensure you have the capability to receive real-time health incident information that you can rely on.
  2. Develop an Incident Management Plan – Health threats do not fit into the “all-hazards” approach common in many crisis management plans, since each disease requires its own unique incident management process. Make sure your managers have clear procedures to manage health threats.
  3. Create frequently asked questions documents – Employees will want to know what to do when there is an incident, and they will want to know it fast. As the management team, you need a FAQ document in place for each health threat, so that you can respond quickly to your employees’ concerns.  At the same time, by having done your homework in advance, you are minimizing the risk of creating inaccurate content in the middle of a crisis.
  4. Monitor the impact to all your operations – Health incidents are unique because they can impact multiple locations simultaneously.  Therefore, you need the ability to track and monitor what is happening locally at all your offices and workplaces.
  5. Know who and when to call – Once your documents and plans are in place, it’s important to know where your nearest hospital is and maintain contacts with your local public health authority. Knowing their capabilities and resources will be critical to ensuring your staff are best-protected during a health incident.