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How to Make Your Pandemic Preparedness Plan

November 13, 2020

Business Lessons From Past Pandemics

Global pandemics are not new, and each time they happen they cause enormous damage to the global economy. Learn more about some of the worst pandemics in history and the lessons we’ve learned from them, as well as how to better prepare for future pandemics.

1918 Influenza Pandemic

The influenza pandemic in 1918 was one of the worst pandemics in modern history, with only the Black Death killing more people. Even though the influenza pandemic killed over 50 million people, it is often forgotten about in history as it was during the height of World War I. Even though it has fallen into the margins of history books, the influenza pandemic showed how a pandemic could affect the economy. 

Some estimates show that business declined as much as 70% during the Spanish Flu pandemic. It’s difficult to say if this loss was because of the pandemic, or if it was also due to the world war. Industrial based cities and economies were hit the hardest because not only were they short of help due to the draft, they were then hit again by the quarantine, illness, and deaths of their workforce, which affected service even more. 

This pandemic showed how ineffective partial quarantines were. In cities like Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Washington D.C. where schools and churches were closed, but not public transportation or restaurants, the disease was still spread. Complete quarantines hurt businesses to the point they had to lay off some employees, but the loss of business revenue was seen as an acceptable loss to stop the rise in deaths. 

Swine Flu Pandemic

The Swine Flu Pandemic of 2009 taught a lot about how pandemics could affect the world. There were concerns about the spread of the avian flu only a few years earlier and a lot of people saw those concerns as overly reactive and extreme. Because there was no global outbreak, most warnings and concerns were ignored or downplayed as something that would never be that bad. 

There was a mild impact on the stock market values of industries that were affected, such as the travel and tourism industries. There were worries that if the pandemic worsened and the spread was not contained that it would worsen the great recession, which lasted from 2007-2009. Thanks to a strong, early response, the impact was not as extreme as estimated. 

Fear was a major side effect of the swine flu pandemic. Rather than seeing what was happening, the fear of what could happen caused additional unnecessary economic fallout. One of the biggest takeaways from the swine flu pandemic was the need to strike a balance between preparing for the worst, while also understanding the actual state of affairs. 

COVID-19 Pandemic

As of June 8, 2020, The World Bank estimated that COVID-19 had already caused a minimum loss of 5.2% of the global GDP, and warned, “Should COVID-19 outbreaks persist . . . the recession could be deeper . . . global growth could shrink by almost 8% in 2020.” In Q2, the U.S. suffered a loss of 9.5%.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the economy worse than any previous pandemic. It “is expected to plunge most countries into recession in the largest fraction of countries globally since 1870,” the World Bank says. This global loss of capital is expected to reverse years, if not decades, of progress in some countries and will lead to tens of millions of people returning to extreme poverty. Global agriculture markets will also suffer, causing food security issues in some places. 

Lessons Learned

Unfortunately, pandemics happen, and they will continue to occur in the future. It’s important to look into the past to learn what to do in the future. Here are a few of the lessons we’ve learned. 

1. There Is an End

As horrific as a pandemic is, and as much damage as it may cause to people, businesses, communities, and the global economy, time is on our side. No pandemic will last forever, and life will continue. 

When planning, it’s essential to think of not only how you are going to survive a pandemic, but also how you are going to thrive once the pandemic is finished. 

2. Have Patience with the Unknown

While it is possible to control some aspects of living in a pandemic, there will be unknowns over which you have no control. Rather than complaining or being upset about those moments you could never have expected, take them in stride and keep moving forward. 

3. Acknowledge the Inevitability

A brief review of history shows pandemics are inevitable and unpredictable. Though we don’t know when a pandemic will occur, we do know that it will eventually happen. Acknowledging this and accepting it as an eventual reality will give credibility and attention to planning and preparation efforts.

4. Establish Communication Channels

With so much changing and at an increased pace, communication is critical to effectively responding to, managing, and surviving a pandemic. How will you receive updates about current events? How will you communicate the updates and impacts to your stakeholders? How will you respond to unexpected needs and communicate the response? Establishing this before it’s needed will help enhance your response

5. Leadership is Key

Leaders at all levels are needed during a crisis, especially a pandemic. Embracing your leadership role, whether that be at the department, college, or institution level, is critical to helping the institution respond most effectively.

6. A Continuity Plan Is a Must Have

Having a pandemic preparedness plan in place before a disaster happens gives you the ability to react quickly, accurately, and efficiently. That reaction time can play a major role in the success or failure of your company. A continuity plan gives you the power to determine how your company is going to respond rather than being reactive and being rushed to make choices. 

Learn How Kuali Can Help You 

Kuali Ready focuses on providing tools to create continuity plans for both business and academic needs. Kuali Ready is the only software available that is designed to address the unique needs of colleges and universities. The easy-to-use questionnaire format simplifies the process of writing continuity plans, freeing up time to accomplish the other mission-critical tasks on your plate. Empower all stakeholders with built-in industry best practice guidance throughout the planning process.


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