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  • Susan Snedaker

Pandemic: Prepare - Don't Panic

The news is full of stories about the new COVID-19 virus. Anyone could reasonably begin to feel overwhelmed or panicky. Planning and preparation are great antidotes to fear. There is likely to be an impact on companies worldwide, especially to the supply chain, given that so much manufacturing occurs in China. IT leaders should take a look at the potential risks to their organizations and help create plans for mitigation.

[Click here for information on COVID-19 from the CDC on symptoms and more.]

[Click here for information from OSHA on how to protect yourself at work.]

Medical providers with face masks

Review these questions to be ready for almost any scenario:

1. Do we have risks to our equipment?

Most computers are manufactured in China. If servers, storage or PC parts were in short supply, how would that impact your operations? Are there steps you can take to procure critical spares (spares, not hoarding)? Weigh the pro's and con's. If you purchase expensive backup equipment you never use, are you better or worse off than not having a critical spare for a while? There is no hard-and-fast answer, but these are things to consider. If you use hosted services, do you have risks with your service providers?

2. Do we have risks to our employees?

If you are a multi-national company, you should assess your global IT risks with a view toward potential absenteeism for key employees. How would you run your business if up to 25% of your IT staff were unavailable? Have you cross-trained sufficiently? Do the right people have administrative privileges to manage critical systems? Are there third parties that could assist if you find your local staff hard hit with illness?

3. Do we have additional cyber risks?

Who's monitoring network feeds, critical alerts and more? Do you have cyber risks that are unique to a pandemic? We all know the risk of cyber attack is likely higher if a pandemic hits since the bad guys like to exploit weaknesses. Give some thought to how your organization might be more vulnerable and take steps to mitigate this increased risk, if possible.

4. What policies, plans,and technologies do we have to accommodate remote work?

While many companies already support remote work, some jobs are more easily done remotely than others. Take a fresh look at roles and responsibilities and see how you might expand your remote abilities, if needed. Also check devices, licenses, two-factor authentication, etc. for remote connectivity to ensure you have everything you need or can quickly procure them.

5. How can we best support our employees?

Scenarios include children being kept home from school, families being quarantined at home, and families being quarantined due to suspected COVID-19 illness in the family. Companies will need to review their sick leave and related HR policies to ensure employees are appropriately and compassionately supported if a pandemic were to occur. How can you best support your IT staff in this scenario? Give it some thought so you're ready if the need arises.

6. How can we keep people healthy? Here's the short list: - Wash your hands with soap and water frequently.

- Use hand sanitizer if soap and water is not immediately available.

- Sneeze or cough into your elbow or into a tissue that is immediately disposed of.

- Disinfect public areas such as rest rooms, break rooms, conference tables, and door knobs.

- Sanitize your cell phone frequently using UV light or bleach wipes.

- If you're sick, stay home.

Planning and preparation are always the best antidotes to fear and uncertainty. Your updated plans may not be needed and they may not be exactly right, but they'll be far better than no plan at all. Stay calm, stay healthy, and make a plan.

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