Ebola: Is Your Organization Prepared?

All organizations should have a business continuity plan.  I know that many do not.  How will your business respond if:

  • Your building burns down
  • A flood destroys facilities
  • A tornado takes out a primary distributor and disrupts a supply chain
  • A pandemic infection affects any key component of your business

A pandemic plan addresses this specific scenario within a business continuity plan.  Do we have remote access capabilities that allow everyone to perform their job?  What happens if the whole IT department is sick?  If accounting is sick, who will send invoices and pay bills?  If our distributor’s source in a foreign country is shut down, where will our supplies come from (this is an indirect affect)?  If sea ports are closed, and the US taps oil reserves, and gas prices quadruple, how will that impact business?  These are things your organization should be considering already, but if not, now is a good time.

UPDATE 10/3/2014: Ebola has now spread officiall to the United States.  A patient in Dallas, according to news sources, has had contact with many people while being infected with Ebola.

Today, based on publicly available news sources, the Ebola virus has spread from west Africa north to Morocco, possibly east to Nigeria and even further to Saudi Arabia.  Additionally, the US has admitted the two Americans infected with the virus.  This could easily fizzle out in a few days and have zero impact on US day to day operations.  But what if it doesn’t, will your business survive interruptions to daily services?

The impact of a potential pandemic infection would be severe.  What if the US declares some sort of martial law and quarantines people to their homes?  This will disrupt shipping and supply chains, and will require all employees to work from home.  Does your organization have the remote access infrastructure in place for this?

Organizations should not panic over this news, but rather use it to push for completing or developing their business continuity plans in preparation for any disaster.  Make sure you have the policies and procedures in place to continue business even if critical pieces of your infrastructure are impacted.  Here is a checklist made available by the CDC for flu pandemic preparedness.  Obviously Ebola is not the same as the flu, but the checklist can work for both.