Pandemic idea sharing. Regardless of cause, H5N1, SARS or Ebola the same basic plannings are the same. While a few are tasked with creating the plans, the many are tasked with carrying them out. Disucss plans, ideas, fears and rescources here.
GAO and congressional testimony
June 16, 2009 at 7:44 pm #73981
Before the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
Greater Agency Accountability Needed to Protect Federal Workers in the Event of a Pandemic
Statement of Bernice Steinhardt Director, Strategic Issues
GAO surveyed the 24 agencies employing nearly all federal workers to gain an overview of governmentwide pandemic influenza preparedness efforts and found that a wide range of pandemic planning activities are under way. However, as of early 2009, several agencies reported that they were still developing their pandemic plans and their measures to protect their workforce. For example, several agencies had yet to identify essential functions during a pandemic that cannot be performed remotely. In addition, although many of the agencies’ pandemic plans rely on telework to carry out their functions, five agencies reported testing their information technology capability to little or no extent.
To get a more in-depth picture of agency planning, GAO selected three case study agencies that represent essential occupations other than first response that cannot be performed remotely. The three case study occupations—correctional workers, production staff disbursing federal checks, and air traffic controllers—showed differences in the degree to which their individual facilities had operational pandemic plans. For example, the Bureau of Prisons’ correctional workers had only recently been required to develop pandemic plans for their correctional facilities. Nevertheless, the Bureau of Prisons has considerable experience limiting the spread of infectious disease within its correctional facilities and had also made arrangements for antiviral medications for a portion of its workers and inmates. The Department of the Treasury’s Financial Management Service, which has production staff involved in disbursing federal payments such as Social Security checks, had pandemic plans for its four regional centers and had stockpiled personal protective equipment such as respirators, gloves, and hand sanitizers at the centers. Air traffic control management facilities, where air traffic controllers work, had not yet developed facility pandemic plans or incorporated pandemic plans into their all-hazards contingency plans. The Federal Aviation Administration had recently completed a study to determine the feasibility of the use of respirators by air traffic controllers and concluded that their long-term use during a pandemic appears to be impractical.
There is no mechanism in place to monitor and report on agencies’ progress in developing workforce pandemic plans. Under the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Implementation Plan, DHS was required to monitor and report on the readiness of departments and agencies to continue operations while protecting their employees during an influenza pandemic. The HSC, however, informed DHS in late 2006 or early 2007 that no specific reports on this were required to be submitted. Rather, the HSC requested that agencies certify to the council that they were addressing in their plans the applicable elements of a pandemic checklist in 2006 and again in 2008. This process did not include any assessment or reporting on the status of agency plans. Given agencies’ uneven progress in developing their pandemic plans, monitoring and reporting would enhance agencies’ accountability for protecting their employees in the event of a pandemic.
June 16, 2009 at 7:50 pm #73989
June 16, 2009 at 8:01 pm #73987
You are quite right in saying “There is no mechanism in place to monitor and report on agencies’ progress in developing workforce pandemic plans” Ohh yeas the Pentagon and Navy have video showing people practicing but no real score card.
GAO says more should be done but as one flu blogger points out “OSHA guidelines do not have any real legal teeth to get thing moving” Source: Fla_MedicBlogging `OSHA On Protecting Employees In A Pandemic’ at http://tinyurl.com/mlzyb9
However there is much we can do. We can prepare ourselves for hurricanes or pandemic – many of the supplies are the same. Many of the plans are the same. Much of the practice is the same for business, employees and their families.
Thank you for the article.
June 17, 2009 at 12:29 pm #73985
Follow up news story from federalnewsradio
By Max Cacas
Health officials both here in the U.S. and around the world are now suggesting that the H1N1 flu virus could make a return to this country later this Fall.
A Senate Committee yesterday asked the question: Is the Federal Government ready if the swine flu makes people sick later this year?
The question of federal government preparedness for a possible return of the H1N1 flu concerns Senator Daniel Akaka (D.-Hawaii) greatly. Akaka is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee’s Oversight subcommittee:
Last week, the WHO raised the pandemic alert level to phase six, a full-blown global pandemic. Fortunately, so far, the virus has been relatively mild, but influenza viruses mutate rapidly, and H1N1 poses a significant threat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that up to 40 percent of employees may be absent from work during a severe pandemic. In addition to those who are ill, employees may stay home to care for sick family members or due to fear of infection. An influenza pandemic threatens the operation of Federal agencies because essential workers could be absent for weeks, or even months, at a time.
Chairman Akaka’s concerns were not put to rest by the report of Bernice Steinhardt with the Government Accountability Office, which, at the request of the chairman, launched a study into government-wide preparation for a flu pandemic prior to the late-winter the outbreak of H1N1.
She says a GAO investigation paints a mixed picture at best of federal preparations for the flu, especially to keep feds safe and healthy during an outbreak.
Agency progress in pandemic planning is uneven. Although all of the 24 CFO Act agencies reported being engaged in planning for pandemic influenza to some degree, several agencies reported that they were still developing their pandemic plans and their measures to protect their workforce.
Steinhardt says GAO’s study also queried agencies on preparations for large groups of workers to keep working from home through teleworking.
Although many of the agencies’ pandemic influenza plans rely on social distancing strategies, primarily telework, to carry out the functions of the federal government in the event of a pandemic outbreak, only one agency, NSF stated that it tested its IT infrastructure to a great extent. The agency reported assessing its telework system formally several times each year and each day through various means. On the other hand, five agencies reported testing their IT systems to little or no extent.
Steinhardt also recommended that the White House Homeland Security Council be tasked with monitoring agency compliance and progress on preparation for a possible flu pandemic.
Elaine Duke, undersecretary of Homeland Security for management, agreed with chairman Akaka that the HSC could play a role in coordinating responses by agencies tasked with providing the key guidance to agencies and staff in the event of an outbreak.
Nancy Kichak with the Office of Personnel Management told the panel that OPM is redoubling its efforts to convince agencies to develop more robust telework policies, this time, to insure a degree of “continuity of operations” in the event government workers are forced to remain at home because of the spread of the H1N1 virus.
OPM Director John Berry recently announced a new initiative that we hope will help agencies ramp up their telework readiness. This initiative is driven not only by Director Berry’s belief in the value of work/life programs generally, but more specifically in the importance of telework as a tool for emergency planning. With implementation of this new initiative, OPM believes we will see not only an improvement in the consistency and quality of telework policies and programs in Executive agencies, but a resulting increase in telework participation Governmentwide, as well.
Representatives from two federal employee labor unions testified that some of their members, particularly those from the Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, were given conflicting guidance from their bosses on the use of protective face masks in the early stages of the recent outbreak.
June 17, 2009 at 6:04 pm #73983
I would ask why H1N1 would not come back in the fall. Each year different Flu strains travelsthe world in patterns that are predictable.
Telework is good but only for a small portion of the workforce. Drivers (delivery, train, subway, buss and truck), packers, manufacturing, resteraunts, etc can not telework.
Bank tellers, pharmacists can not telework.
Health inspectors can not telework.
Blood donations can not telework, nor can they stop.
What does work is social distancing and not reusing items. What does work is cross training so when people are sick the work is still done.
I agree that gidance is good but what does work is practicing. No one whould go see a doctor who has read the medical guidelines. We want a doctor with years of experiance. So to for the next pandemic – have people with years or atleast months of experiance.
Another good article. These are really good Henry – do keep them comming. If I seem frustrated its because after five years of H5N1 bird flu planning so many still seem to be a sqare one.
On the flu blogs people have not only planned but practiced and rate different items and methods for free.
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