A pandemic is a disease outbreak that spreads to multiple countries or continents. It is estimated that there will be a pandemic every five to ten years. What can you do to prepare for a pandemic to minimize the impact it has on your family, business, and way of life?
- Learn how diseases spread: Viruses and bacteria can spread from direct contact (person to person), from an inanimate object that is touched by an infected person (fomite-transmission), through insect bites (vectors), and through air or droplets. Knowing how a disease spreads is important to protect yourself from illness. Washing hands helps prevent fomite-borne illnesses, while masks can prevent the spread of airborne and droplet-borne diseases.
- Plan for interruptions to your routine: workplaces and schools may be closed to in person attendance. Prepare for virtual attendance by having a comfortable place in your home for work or schoolwork, and a capable internet connection.
- Have an emergency kit in case you must stay home or there is a supply interruption. Include cleaning supplies, prescriptions, emergency foods (non-perishable), and water.
- Have an emergency plan: know what you need, what you will do, and who you will contact. Consider that a pandemic may impact plans for other emergencies, such as wildfire or tornadoes. Have plans for your pets as well; medications, food, and carriers for emergency transport. Consider who would take care of your animals should you become ill or go to the hospital.
- Businesses should build an infection control plan as part of their emergency response program. Include different types of infection control, who will be on the infection control response team, who will gather and communicate the most up to date information for your employees. Plan on reviewing this plan at least once annually.
- Make sure health insurance is current and understand your policy. Be aware of telemedicine options and know where you would go if you were to get sick.
- Keep a backup of important documents on a password secured digital file and keep hard copies in a secure place in a fire-proof lock box.
For industry-specific COVID-19 guidance from L&I, go to https://lni.wa.gov/safety-health/safety-topics/topics/coronavirus#industry-and-topic-specific-resources
For more information about the requirements in Washington state for a company emergency response plan, go to Chapter 296-824 WAC: https://lni.wa.gov/safety-health/safety-rules/chapter-pdfs/WAC296-824.pdf. Example templates can be found under Labor and Industries resources at https://lni.wa.gov/safety-health/preventing-injuries-illnesses/create-a-safety-program/sample-safety-programs-plans#emergencies.