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Course Summary

IS-520 - Introduction to Continuity of Operations Planning for Pandemic Influenzas

Welcome to the Pandemic Awareness online course. The purpose of this course is to provide you with a general understanding of:


Course Objectives

At the end of this course, you should be able to:


Course Purpose

Influenzas occur throughout the world every year, usually during the fall and winter. Most people have some level of immunity to these “seasonal” influenzas and vaccines are usually available.

Sometimes, particularly virulent influenzas strike. People have no immunity and vaccines are not readily available. These influenzas reproduce and mutate rapidly. They also create a “second wave” of victims. These “pandemic” viruses raise the possibility of killing millions of people around the world.

This course introduces the characteristics of and potential implications of pandemic influenzas. It will also present suggestions for minimizing their effects.


Course Topics


Seasonal Influenzas

Seasonal influenzas occur nearly every fall and winter in the United States. Seasonal influenzas are transmitted from person to person, but most people have some level of immunity to them.

As seasonal influenzas are identified, the Federal Government, through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), works with the World Health Organization (WHO) and pharmaceutical companies to ensure that a vaccine is available.


Pandemic Influenza

Some influenzas occur naturally in birds, swine, or other animals. Usually, these viruses are confined to the host animal, but some can be transmitted to humans. Once in humans, the virus mutates into a human influenza.

Unlike seasonal influenzas, humans have no immunity to the mutated virus and vaccines may not be available. Some influenza variants are particularly virulent, passing easily among humans and causing global outbreaks. These outbreaks are called pandemics.


Characteristics of a Pandemic

Pandemic-causing viruses have three characteristics in common. The virus:


Pandemic Influenza: Preparedness

A global outbreak of influenza is cause for concern, especially if a strain emerges for which there is little or no immunity in the human population.

Such a pandemic influenza has the ability to affect approximately 30 percent of the population at any given time, disrupt 40 percent of the workforce as workers suffer from illness or stay home to take care of family members,and cause significant disruption to all sectors of economy. Medical facilities would be overwhelmed, medical supplies would be inadequate for the need over an extended period of time, and response assets would be severely burdened while at the same time having to be self-reliant.

How would your organization respond during a pandemic when resources may be severely limited?

What would you do to protect your employees’ families?

What could you do to protect citizens?

How will you communicate with other organizations?

This course will help you identify key impacts that could affect your organization’s response efforts during a pandemic, and provide you with job aids and sources of information to use in planning. Preparedness is the key to mitigating the effects of a pandemic influenza and avoiding disruptions to the essential services we provide.


Pandemic Influenza: What Will the Situation Be?

Planning for a pandemic is much different than planning for other types of disasters or events.

Other impacts from a pandemic could include:


What Do These Factors Mean to Your Organization?

All government leaders, emergency services agencies, and emergency response organizations will need to plan for pandemics in a way that they do not for natural or other disasters. Among the tasks that your organization will have to consider are how to:


How Can You Ensure Readiness?

Intra- and interagency cooperation in pandemic planning will prove critical as your jurisdiction establishes horizontal and vertical relationships with other agencies, the private sector, and others.

Pandemic planning team members should include those on the emergency planning team. Be sure to include:


Initial Planning: Begin With Your Continuity Plan

All Federal Executive Branch agencies are required to develop continuity programs. Organizations at all government levels, nongovernmental organizations, and others are encouraged to develop continuity plans.

The goals of continuity plans are to:

Continuity planning follows a proven model that can be followed for pandemic planning. After you have completed the planning process, make sure to check to see if your Emergency Operations Plan needs to be updated.


Identifying Essential Functions

Essential functions are those functions that enable an organization to:

Some essential functions are defined in Federal or State laws, local ordinances, or executive directives.

Agencies and jurisdictions should work together closely to be sure they identify all essential functions. Critical interdependencies must also be identified.  For example, the 911 dispatch center is interdependent with fire, police, and emergency medical services.  Recognizing critical interdependencies will help to identify critical infrastructure, such as communication systems, that must remain operational.


Performing Essential Functions During a Pandemic

After identifying essential functions, each organization needs to determine whether:


Essential Records to Support Essential Functions

Essential records are those records and databases are required to support the performance of the organization’s essential functions. After identifying essential functions and determining how they will be accomplished, determine:

Not all records are used day to day will be vital during a pandemic. Be sure to identify those records that are needed no matter what.


Planning Self-Assessment:  Essential Services

It’s time to stop and check your planning process by answering the following questions. 


Workforce Planning Assumptions

Once sustained person-to-person transmission begins, pandemic influenza will spread rapidly. The CDC’s planning assumptions for workforce impacts from a pandemic are as follows:


Orders of Succession

Graphic showing orders of succession, with the agency leader in the top box and four successors in the boxes beneath the agency leader.It is critical to have a clear line of succession to offices established for organizational leaders. Designation of a successor enables the successor to act on behalf of and exercise the authorities of the principal in the event of the principal’s death or incapacity.

Orders of succession enable an orderly and predefined transition of leadership. Orders of succession that are at least “three deep” are recommended for continuity purposes. In a pandemic, it may be preferable to develop orders of succession that are five deep, with one successor designated in another geographic area.






Minimum Requirements for Orders of Succession

Use the information below as a guide to developing effective orders of succession.

As a minimum, orders of succession must:

  1. Establish an order of succession for the position of the organization’s head. There should be a designated official available to serve as acting head of the organization until that official is appointed by the Chief Elected Official or other appropriate authority, replaced by the permanently appointed official, or otherwise relieved.
    1. Geographical dispersion is encouraged and ensures roles and responsibilities can transfer in all contingencies.
    2. Where a suitable field structure exists, appropriate personnel located outside of the subject region should be considered in the order of succession.
  2. Establish orders of succession for other key organizational leadership positions, including but not limited to administrators, key managers, and other essential personnel.
  3. Describe orders of succession by positions or titles, rather than by the names of individuals. Coordinate the development of orders of succession with the organization’s general counsel.
  4. Establish the rules and procedures designated officials must follow when facing the issues of succession to office.
  5. Include in the succession procedures the conditions under which succession will take place, in accordance with applicable laws and organizational or department directives; the method of notification; and any temporal, geographic, or organizational limitations to the authorities granted by the order of succession.
  6. Include orders of succession in essential records to ensure that they are available at all times.
  7. Revise orders of succession, as necessary, and distribute the revisions promptly as changes occur.
  8. Develop and provide a duties and responsibilities briefing to the designated successors to the position of the organization’s head, when named, and other key positions, on their responsibilities as successors and on any provisions for their relocation.


Delegations of Authority

Graphic showing delegation of authority, with the agency leader in the top box and delegations for specific job functions (A and B) in the boxes beneath the agency leader.Even though a pandemic influenza strikes indiscriminately, your organization’s essential functions must continue. To ensure continued operations, your organization should delegate the authority to make policy decisions. A delegation of authority:

As a general rule, delegations of authority take effect when normal channels of direction are disrupted and terminate when the channels are reestablished.

Use the information below as a guide to developing effective delegations of authority.

To ensure legal sufficiency and clarity, delegations of authority must:

  1. Document in advance the legal authority for officials to make key policy decisions during a continuity situation.
  2. Plan and document in advance of an incident and in accordance with applicable laws, including:
    1. Delineating the limits of authority and accountability.
    2. Outlining explicitly in a statement the authority, including exceptions to that authority, of any official so designated to exercise organizational direction, and the authority of an official to redelegate functions and activities, as appropriate.
    3. Defining the circumstances under which delegation of authorities would take effect and would be terminated.
  3. Ensure that those officials who might be expected to assume authorities are properly informed and trained to carry out their responsibilities.
  4. Ensure the orderly transition of leadership for the position of the organization’s head, as well as for key supporting positions within an organization during an emergency and be closely tied to succession.
  5. Include delegations of authority in the essential records and ensure that they are available at all times.


Survey Staff Skills

It is important to identify those staff members who may be able to fill in or assist in the completion of your essential services.

Although employees may not currently be assigned to tasks related to the essential services, their previous work experience or particular skills sets may allow them to complete these functions.

For each essential service, create a list of all staff or other resources who could be cross-trained to perform the required tasks.


Review Your Personnel Policies and Procedures

As part of your pre-pandemic planning, you may want to review your personnel policies including:

Make sure to consult with your bargaining unit representatives if you have a labor union.


Planning Self-Assessment: Workforce Considerations

It’s time to stop and check your planning process by answering the following questions.


Managing Personnel During a Pandemic

Maintaining a cadre of trained personnel may be one of the most difficult aspects of pandemic planning.

As with any emergency, organizations are responsible for managing their personnel during a pandemic. Some organizations will be able to implement strategies, such as social distancing, without difficulty. Some organizations, however, will have to place their personnel in close proximity to a potentially infected public. These organizations will have to consider a wide array of options for supporting their personnel during a pandemic.


Strategies for Protecting Essential Personnel

Remember that pandemic influenza will spread from person to person through social contact. One of the biggest challenges for any organization, then, will center on protecting essential personnel.

Although there are no guarantees, some organizations will be able to protect their personnel more easily than others. Protecting first-response personnel, however, will be especially difficult.


Social Distancing

Social distancing involves focused measures to increase social distance or restrict activities. There are three general strategies for social distancing:



Telework is . . .

Any arrangement in which an employee regularly performs officially assigned duties at home or other worksites geographically convenient to the residence of the employee.

Employees who use computers and other information technology while teleworking need effective support during work hours; remote access presents some unique issues and agencies should ensure tech support can meet these needs. These needs must also be taken into account in planning for using a distributed workforce during an emergency situation.

Employees designated to work from home during an emergency event should telework frequently enough to ensure all systems are working smoothly.


Shift Work

Shift work includes any system of work other than day work. Shift work may include:


Shift Work Issues

While shift work may be appropriate during a pandemic, it raises other issues that should be considered.


What if You Don’t Work in an Office?

The strategies introduced so far work well in an office. What about employees who don’t work in an office? What about employees who regularly come in contact with the public?

Some creativity will be required for these employees. For example:

Employees who must work in close proximity to each other, or regularly come in contact with the public, should be a priority for vaccines.


Keeping Personnel Informed

You may want to establish hotlines, web postings, and telephone trees to communicate pandemic status, plans, and actions to employees in a consistent and timely fashion.

Also, you may want to share materials that educate employees about:


Employee Hygiene

Influenza is thought to be primarily spread through large droplets produced when infected people cough, sneeze or talk, sending the relatively large infectious droplets and very small sprays (aerosols) into the nearby air and into contact with other people. Safe hygienic practices will be critical to protect employees. Therefore, all employees should be encouraged to:

Organizations should also encourage employees to use a paper towel when touching door handles, telephones, and other surfaces with which they come in contact, rather than touching these surfaces directly.


Workplace Hygiene

To a lesser degree, influenza is spread by touching objects contaminated with influenza viruses and then transferring the infected material from the hands to the nose, mouth, or eyes.  It is important to maintain proper workplace hygiene by:


Planning Self-Assessment: Workforce Protection

It’s time to stop and check your planning process by answering the following questions. 


Addressing Interdependencies

"Interdependencies" refer to the interrelationship among critical infrastructure sectors. These linkages vary in scale and complexity and may include:

During a pandemic influenza outbreak lack of personnel in one sector will affect all interrelated sectors. The next section provides examples of potential interdependencies that you may need to consider when developing your plan.


Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources


Protecting and ensuring the continuity of the critical infrastructure and key resources (CIKR) of the United States are essential to the nation's security, public health and safety, economic vitality, and way of life.

Attacks on CIKR could significantly disrupt the functioning of government and business alike and produce cascading effects far beyond the targeted sector and physical location of the incident.
Homeland Security Presidential Directive 7 (HSPD-7) established U.S. policy for enhancing CIKR protection by establishing a framework for partners to identify, prioritize, and protect the nation's CIKR from terrorist attacks.

The directive identified CIKR sectors and designated a Federal Sector-Specific Agency (SSA) to lead CIKR protection efforts in each.

National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP)

The National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP) provides the unifying structure for the integration of a wide range of efforts for the enhanced protection and resiliency of the nation's CIKR into a single national program.

CIKR Sectors

Additional Information


Obtaining Needed Supplies and Services

Organizations that depend on a national supply chain may find themselves without the necessary materials, supplies, and workforce because other communities across the country may still be affected by an outbreak.

It is important to talk suppliers and service vendors about their pandemic planning. Find out how they intend to support their customers and where they feel their “breaking points” are. Don’t accept explanations such as, “We don’t expect any disruptions.” Ask what their continuity plan is.


Building an Inventory of Critical Supplies

Given an increased reliance on “just-in-time” delivery and the potential impacts that could interrupt your supply chain, it is important to coordinate with suppliers ahead of time to ensure you can obtain essential items.

Stock enough supplies for the first wave, if possible. Stocking supplies for the anticipated 8- to 12-week first wave will need to be covered in the organization’s budget and may need to be “sold” to the leadership. Make sure to restock between waves.

Ensure supplies are staged and available at each worksite. Staging may be complex, especially if your organization pursues a telework strategy. Build a “trigger” into the planning process so that essential personnel have a definite point at which they will need to get the supplies they need for an extended period away from the office. In addition, you may need to plan for security to protect your inventory.


Maintaining Equipment and Systems

Develop contingency plans for equipment and systems that:


Meeting Communications Needs

During a pandemic, personnel movement may be restricted and transportation systems may be disrupted. Communication, whether internal or external to the organizations, may become more difficult. Each organization and the entire jurisdiction should review its communications plan to determine if:

Remember that essential functions must continue during a pandemic and effective communications systems will be imperative.

Communications Requirements

Emergency communications systems must support connectivity, under all conditions among key leadership, internal elements, other agencies, critical customers, and the public.

Use the information below as a guide to reviewing your organization’s communications systems.

Emergency communications systems should:

  1. Possess interoperable and available communications capabilities in sufficient quantity and mode and that are commensurate with the organization’s responsibilities during emergency conditions.
  2. Possess communications capabilities that can support the organization’s senior leadership and key personnel while in transit.
  3. Be readily available and maintainable for more than 30 days or until normal communications can resume.
  4. Satisfy the requirement to provide assured and priority access to communications resources.
  5. Be of sufficient capabilities to accomplish the organization’s essential functions, whether from an organization’s primary facility, an alternate facility, or a mobile unit.

All organizations at all governmental levels, private entities, and nongovernmental organizations should review their communications programs and systems to ensure they are fully capable of supporting a pandemic and give full consideration to supporting social distancing operations, including telework and virtual offices.


Planning Self-Assessment: Critical Services, Supplies, and Equipment

It’s time to stop and check your planning process by answering the following questions. 


Testing, Training, and Exercises (TT&E)

Pandemic plans must be tested, trained, and exercised to ensure that strategies work as developed. Pandemic scenarios should be incorporated into every organization’s TT&E plan.

When conducting TT&E, be sure to:

Be sure to include medical providers and other critical personnel in TT&E programs.


Post-Pandemic Planning

All organizations and jurisdictions should conduct an evaluation of pandemic operations in the same way as for other incidents.


Planning Self-Assessment: Summary Checklist

Throughout this course you have had an opportunity to assess your planning efforts in the following areas:

Identifying Essential Services

Addressing Workforce Considerations

Implementing Workforce Protection Measures

Ensuring Availability of Critical Services, Supplies, and Equipment


Key Pandemic Planning Resources

There are numerous resources to help your organization or jurisdiction get the most from your planning in the shortest period of time. Before beginning pandemic planning, it would be beneficial if you would print these resources.

Each of the above documents includes checklists and other job aids to help your planning effort.