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H7N9 in China

Apr 18, 2013   //   by David   //   Blog, Pandemics  //  No Comments

The latest strain of flu (H7N9) which has been reported in China has caused 60-70 deaths so far.  Each one s tragic and should never be down played, but we do need to keep a sense of proportion.  So far there has been no evidence of human to human transmission.  It is almost certain that those who had the disease were in very close and regular contact with fowls and at some point breathed in the dried faeces.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is working with the Chinese government to carry out tests to see if there is any evidence of human to human transmission but as yet there have been no positive indicators.

So what should you do?  Well as I have said for years, don’t panic!  The number of cases is still low in China and many tests are being carried out.

Perhaps if you are in China or in a country near by you should increase you personal hygiene by making sure you always wash and dry your hands thoroughly and also increase cleaning in office, especially hard surfaces such as kitchen areas as the virus can last for several days on them.

Masks?  No, unless it is a surgical mask.  The type you would get from DIY stores don’t fit tightly and are of little benefit, also they get wet quickly and are then of little use.

Can you eat fowl safely?  Yes provided it has been thoroughly cooked.  Raw fowl or blood products should be avoided at all costs.


It’s back! But does it really matter?

Feb 26, 2013   //   by David   //   Blog, Pandemics  //  No Comments

It was the lead story in at least one Sunday newspaper.  It is on every news website in the UK.  The BBC run stories on it.  Yes, flu is back!

But is it really?

Well yes H1N1 has been diagnosed in two people in the Borders, but it is rarely mentioned that this is one of the expected viruses this year.  The annual vaccine included H1N1 so, no surprise there then, it was expected!

I don’t want to downplay the fact that a pregnant woman and an 18 month old have the flu.  It is a very nasty disease for people in both those groups. But we do have to look at the demographics, the virus is especially effective in those who are pregnant, young, have underlying conditions or older groups.

So should those responsible for business continuity do anything?  Well the first thing is to make sure no one panics!  There is no evidence that a pandemic is on its way.  The numbers are low and the spread slow so there is no need to take drastic action.

But you should revisit your pandemic plans.  When were they last updated? 2010? Spend an hour checking it over just to see how much needs changed and plan when you will do it.  And not next year, this year!

But above all, remember the media have a job to do and that doesn’t always mean telling it like it really is…….

Have you really thought about getting ready for Winter?

Nov 8, 2011   //   by David   //   Business Continuity, Management, Reputation  //  No Comments

It’s that time of year again…. It’s November, the clocks have been changed and leaves are rapidly leaving the trees. Almost exactly 12 months ago we had the first falls of snow. Last year’s problems were that the temperature stayed below zero from November through to almost the end of January. So the snow became ice and even more snow fell. Repeat for 6 to 8 weeks and that’s what happened last year. I’m sure you remember the problems this caused with roads being gridlocked, trains and planes being stuck and a general sense of “oh no”. Sure, it gave us a nice white Christmas, but for many businesses it was a stressful period. Retailers suffered with a dramatically reduced footfall in what is normally their busiest season. Distribution businesses suffered because, although main roads had been kept open, many smaller roads were dangerous and even un-driveable for weeks. Healthcare was under pressure with many more slips and falls injuries than normal. I remember all too well the number of mornings I spent shovelling snow from my driveway. Roads closed, airports closed, schools closed, businesses interrupted. We’ve already seen the east coast of America having a severe snowfall which resulted in massive disruption.

The question has to be, have you actually learned the lessons from last year?

What have you done to ensure that your business is ready for winter? We all know what happens in the UK when there is a significant snowfall. Everything stops. Despite the latitude of the country we seem to manage to be taken by surprise – every year. Why? Why should it be a surprise that when it snows transport becomes difficult? It can only be because we don’t really think back to the problems of previous winters and actually make preparations. Although the weather forecasters can give us a decent forecast for the next 48 hours or so, we’re not good at taking it seriously. A statistic from a Transport Scotland survey is that 70% of journeys to work are by car/van/minibus. Public transport only accounts for 15% of journeys to work. So when the roads become difficult it’s no wonder there’s an immediate impact on workforces. Have you considered asking your staff how they commute to work? (look out the window at the staff car park and do a quick estimate of the impact road disruption will have.)

Last winter, one of the most challenging days in Scotland came on a Monday morning when there was a severe and heavy snowfall across most of the central belt between 07:00am and 10:00am. This snowfall was forecast, but when the morning commuter traffic started the snow hadn’t. It fell at the worst possible time and led to pretty much all of central Scotland being gridlocked and closed by lunchtime. It took several days to get the main roads clear again and many weeks before all the side roads were cleared. Much criticism of the local authorities and Government followed. Now, to be fair the Scottish Government has taken this seriously and has made plans to ensure that wherever possible they are better prepared for winter. There is an increased quantity of grit/salt available across the country. All in all, it is an encouraging sign that the Government taking the problems which we had last winter seriously. There is a Ready Scotland website which will be used as one of the communications channels : . Twitter feeds and various other real time information services will be used.

Regardless of the preparations being made by Government and other public sector bodies there are simple steps which can be taken by any business and by each and every one of us :

For Businesses/Organisations

  1. Be sure you know what your business critical processes and services are. Can you readily say what you will *not* do if the weather prevents your staff from travelling to work? If you can do this, by implication you must know what you *will* do.
  2. Be sure that you have an up-to-date and reliable (i.e. tested) way of getting a message to all staff outside of normal working hours. Likewise for suppliers and customers. Use your website or use Twitter (with care). Use a call-in messaging service for your staff, but make sure they know the number to call before the first fall of snow.
  3. Review your policies and procedures for staff working from home (if appropriate, and remember that employers still have duties under H&S law for staff working at home). Also review your staff absence policies. What decision will you make if schools are closed and staff need to look after children? How much pressure is your staff under to travel to work if the Police and Government advice is not to travel? It’s not easy, but war-gaming this scenario now could avoid considerable stress and problems later.
  4. Consider what you would do if your staff needed to stay overnight closer to their place of work. Can you help with accommodation?

For everyone who commutes by road (and surveys say that’s 70% of us)

If you travel to work by car you really should take sensible precautions to prepare yourself.

  1. Carry suitable clothing and winter shoes/boots in the car (and gloves, possibly a hat)
  2. Carry a suitable charger for their mobile phone in the car
  3. Consider buying winter tyres (most tyre dealers now have stock of common sizes. Some will store your “summer” tyres for you)
  4. Carry a grab bag of emergency resources – e.g. foil blanket, hi-visibility vest, torch/lightstick, bottle of water, something to eat –sweets maybe.
  5. Keep car fuel level higher than you may in good weather. Sitting idling for hours in traffic jam can burn more petrol/diesel than you’d expect.


This is probably the most common sense thing we’ve ever written about but…………



Me – I’ve bought a couple of plastic snow shovels and have them ready and waiting………. And my grab bag is in the boot of my car.


As usual please feel free to post your thoughts and comments on this blog entry.