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A Pandemic Exercise - Telecommuting & Will the Infrastructure Support It?

How to be prepared for the swine flu

I attended a pandemic exercise at Northeastern University last year that was really enlightening and timely considering the latest information about the “swine flu”. Although far from a pandemic at this time, the CDC is taking preventative measures by communicating with the general public what they can do to avoid becoming ill. Here are a few tips that can help spread the transmission.

  • Hygiene- Wash your hands, it sounds insignificant but good hygiene can prevent the transmission by touching objects that others who have the influenza have also touched. Avoid any hand to mouth, eye or nose contact and cover your face if you have to sneeze or cough to also prevent the spread of airborne germs.
  • Social Distancing – If you don’t have to attend gatherings with others, then don’t. The fewer people you come in contact with lowers your risk of contracting the flu. If you do need to commute to work via public transportation, just follow the first step of keeping sanitary. A respirator mask may help reduce the risk of airborne transmission but only certain masks are rated for that type of prevention.
  • Don’t infect others – If you are feeling sick, stay at home and avoid spreading the disease to your co-workers.
  • Get Informed – Get the latest information on the epidemic. Check out resources available like the Center for Disease Control, www.cdc.gov, and the World Health Organization www.WHO.int for the latest information regarding how to prevent contracting and the spread of the infection.

One of the worst pandemics was after WWI (1918-1920), when the “Spanish flu” killed approximately 20-40 million people within 18 months. Much of this had to do with the lack of communication and information regarding how to prevent contracting the virus and spreading to others. There are some interesting statistics from this time where towns that held parades for the returning WWI veterans had a higher rate of infection than those towns that canceled parades due to concern of being exposed to the flu.

If you can first accept the fact that pandemics happen, and the next one will, the more interesting question is if the current network infrastructure would support business continuity plans for a “work from home” type of prevention. Following the first few steps of hygiene and social distancing is the first step to prevention and spread of the infection but if there is an actual pandemic, then is working from home a realistic option? There are approximately 6.5 Million people, according to a recent census, in the Boston Massachusetts area. Would the local cable or Internet provider be able to handle 80% of that hitting the network infrastructure all at once? Given that the network infrastructure is more updated and current than our antiquated electrical grid, there is a better chance, but we all know what happens when a heat wave moves in for three or more days. Brownouts. And a brownout for the worldwide web won’t work and at very least won’t be productive to resume a functional level of business continuity.

What are your thoughts on the Internet infrastructure being sufficient to support a telecommuting strategy for business continuity?

More Stories By Brace Rennels

Brace Rennels is a passionate and experienced interactive marketing professional who thrives on building high energy marketing teams to drive global web strategies, SEO, social media and online PR web marketing. Recognized as an early adopter of technology and applying new techniques to innovative creative marketing, drive brand awareness, lead generation and revenue. As a Sr. Manager Global of Website Strategies his responsibilities included developing and launching global social media, SEO and web marketing initiatives and strategy. Recognized for applying innovative solutions to address unique problems and manage business relationships to effectively accomplish enterprise objectives. An accomplished writer, blogger and author for several publications on various marketing, social media and technical subjects such as industry trends, cloud computing, virtualization, website marketing, disaster recovery and business continuity. Publications include CIO.com, Enterprise Storage Journal, TechNewsWorld, Sys-Con, eWeek and Peer to Peer Magazine. Follow more of Brace's writing on his blog: http://bracerennels.com

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Most Recent Comments
michaelshear 04/27/09 01:55:00 PM EDT

Thank you for your thoughtful article. I too have shared a concern regarding our reliance in the internet especially during emergency situations. Our current support of remote workers is so minimal on a daily basis that we must expect evacuation to be, perhaps, our first level of response. Then, assuming workers can get to an alternate site (presumably home) that there will be electricity and secure internet access. Then we assume that the capacity and integrity are also going to be there.

I've suspected that these assumptions are flawed and that we must consider other approaches to workforce deployment, emergency preparedness and continuity of operations planning. You may view the distributed workplace model at the pocketsnet.com website. I welcome you comments and further discussion.

Best regards,
Michael Shear