Telework advocates stress pandemic preparedness

States must be prepared to communicate and share information regionally in the event of a pandemic, former Virginia governor says.

Business Pandemic Influenza Planning checklist

Planning, communication and technology must be the focus of states’ and cities’ responses to a possible avian flu pandemic, public health experts said Dec. 8 at an event in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Telework Coalition.

States should be prepared to communicate and share information regionally in the event of a pandemic, said Jim Gilmore, former Virginia governor who is now chairman of the National Council of Readiness Preparedness. The council will hold regional meetings in several states, beginning Feb. 1, 2006. The first meeting will take place at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Health experts say the avian flu strain known as H5N1 could become the most lethal virus in human history if a pandemic were to occur. “A successful response will depend on a well-informed public,” said Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu, director of the Fairfax County Health Department. She recommended that businesses and government agencies plan for a possible pandemic by emphasizing the common health practice of hand washing. Addo-Ayensu also recommended that agencies expand teleworking opportunities.

Paul Striedl, chairman of the Association of Contingency Planners, said planning and technology are critical elements in preparedness. “You need a plan,” he said. “Technology infrastructures have to be greatly beefed up.”

Chuck Wilsker, president and chief executive officer of the Telework Coalition, said telework would be a survival tool by protecting people from exposure to other workers who might spread the flu. The coalition is an advocacy group representing tech companies whose products and services support telework.