Community Preparedness for an Influenza Pandemic

One of the biggest challenges of a rapidly developing and sustained influenza pandemic is its capacity to disrupt “essential services”, i.e. society’s critical infrastructures. The following areas of everyday life may break down during a pandemic, causing problems even for people who are not ill. Formulating a plan for each of these areas is essential for every community.

Note: the outline below is organised as “systems” (water supply system, etc), but we might want to think in terms of results: cooking, keeping food cold, keeping ourselves warm, etc. So we’re adding a few such basic “aims” at the end; maybe they have a better place.

Essential services are highly interdependent. Problems in one sector can affect another or possibly lead to a cascade of disruption if the stars are aligned just right. This is a complicated but vital area to think through. This (Powerpoint) CDC slide show might serve as a starting point. Here is one possible framework for organizing the discussion so that it focuses specifically on the possible effects of an influenza pandemic.

  • Problems related to absenteeism in the sector facilities and its support staff
    • How brittle is the operation to personnel loss? How long, if at all, could it continue to operate effectively if one third of its staff were out sick?
    • Are there particular critical/essential staff that should have priority for antivirals or vaccine?
  • Problems related to other sectors
    • What other sectors is operation critically dependent upon? For example, transportation to provide essential materials. Does the sector operate on “just in time” inventory or is there typically some reserve?
    • What other sectors are affected by failure of this one? What is likely to be the timing and consequence of failures in this sector on others?
  • What will be the impact of Quarantine?
    • At national borders, docks etc. for goods, fuel, food etc.
    • At regional or comunity boundaries for all of the above plus labour.
  • What are the direct effects of failure on the public?

We would like to reserve this area for information of direct relevance to the problem of pandemic influenza and to keep it as “neutral” as possible. There is a Forum for discussing controversies or disagreements and on occasion the Editors may move entries to that location to preserve balance.

Here’s how to use the Forum: If you want to state an opinion or try out an idea about a particular item, for example “coal deliveries,” first start a thread called “coal deliveries”. It will open an edit box where you can discuss things in a threaded fashion. If you want the entry to note there is talk in the Forum, copy the Forum link you just created (right-click on a PC or control-click on a Mac) and enter a note at the bottom of the entry something like this: Discussed [[URL you just copied of the Forum thread | here]]. The vertical line between the URL and the link text is the “pipe” symbol ( | ), just above the backslash (\) on your keyboard. You can check the “coal deliveries” entry (which is otherwise without content) for this example.

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Food Supply and Distribution

  • Local farms, dairies, etc., including processing & bulk storage facilities
  • Poultry and hog farms & processing, as special cases deserving detailed plans
  • Distribution warehouses and transportation
  • Groceries and supermarkets
  • Home gardens, home livestock (rabbits, poultry(!)), hunting, fishing
  • Emergency food rationing & distribution
  • Food supply during strict quarantine
  • Public safety issues in safeguarding food supply & distribution
  • Poultry, meat and seafood handling and sanitation guidelines

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Sewage Disposal

  • Sewage-related pathogens & disease transmission
  • Sewage disposal: department-wide issues
  • Public toilet operations & maintenance
  • Sewer & pumping station maintenance
  • Treatment plant operations
  • Emergency sewage collection & disposal

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Solid Waste Management

  • A Primer
  • Sanitation: department-wide issues
  • Refuse collection and disposal
  • Refuse processing and recycling
  • Street cleaning and associated tasks
  • Snow removal
  • Emergency solid wastes management plans

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Energy Supplies

Grid Risks

The power grids in most developed countries involve a high degree of complex interdependency between generation supply/facilities/staff, control facilities/staff, and transmission facilities/staff, as well as interdependency with external infrastructure/staff/supply to sustain the aforesaid. A full Reliability, Maintainability, and Availability (RMA) analysis would be required to reasonably quantify the probabilities and impacts, but the following is the first step of identifying key risks;

Power Generation

  • Coal (over 50% of U.S. electricity supply)
    • Miners and other staff must be able to extract coal at or near their current rates. Risks: absenteeism, interruption in food/water supply, loss of electricity.
    • Coal loading facilities must move the coal to the loading facilities and onto the coal cars. At the power plant, coal car unloading facitilies must move coal to temporary stockpile. Most coal plants require over 100 loaded coal cars every day. Risks: interruption in diesel fuel and electricity, interruption in food/water supply, absenteeism.
    • Trains must continue operating, including railroad crossing lights/gates (an accident would delay coal delivery). Risks: interruption in diesel fuel, electricity, absenteeism.
    • Communications between the loading facility, train dispatchers, and coal receiving facility must be operational. Risks: interruption in communications (dependent on electricity).
  • Nuclear (20% of U.S. electricity supply)
    • Must have sufficient external grid power (20–50 MW) to maintain operations in the event that the reactor(s) go offline. Risks: insufficient or unreliable supply of external grid electricity
    • Highly skilled staff must continue operations in all critical function areas. Risks: interruption in food/water supply, absenteeism.

Power Distribution

  • Skilled dispatch staff must be able to handle higher level of grid instability. Interconnections between control facilities are minimal in many areas; overuse during periods of high grid instability can cause failure due to thermal overload. Risks: interruption in food/water supply, absenteeism, increased staff stress, over-reliance on interconnects.
  • For each control area (over 150 in the US), the staff must be able to rapidly communicate power needs, availability, and decisions with local generation facilities and adjacent control areas. Strategic communication with the respective state Governor is also required. Risks: interruption in communications (dependent on electricity).
  • Repair crews must be able to restore outages to all portions of the distribution system (generation facility high voltage lines, control area interconnection lines, commercial/industrial/residental substations and lines). Risks: interruption in communications (dependent on electricity), interruption in food/water supply, absenteeism, increased stress.

(Need to integrate mitigations from Transmission infrastructure (grid / powerlines) operation & maintenance)

Motor fuels ( gasoline, petro-diesel, biodiesel, alcohol, aviation fuels, other. Peak Oil or other shortages as complicating factors)

Heating fuels ( wood, coal, natural gas, propane, other)

Mitigations (Emergency conservation measures & rationing, Point-of-use generating resources: residential & commercial)

see also Keeping The Grid Up, The North American Electric Reliability Council (use the search feature and type in “pandemic” for relevant links).

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Communications Networks

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Transportation Networks

Note: fuels are covered under Energy Supplies

  • Maintenance of private vehicles
  • Operation & maintenance of local public transport (urban/light rail, bus, etc.)
  • Health issues and public transport usage
  • Operation & maintenance of regional transport facilities (airports, seaports, rail stations, etc)
  • Trucking: continuity of service
  • Health issues and regional transport usage
  • Management issues vis-a-vis private passenger and freight carriers
  • Tourism and Avian Influenza?. A global look at planning for a pandemic in the tourism industry - scenarios - planning - questions - answers. “Repatriate tourists or not, how, at what cost, with what risks” - Link to the FW Forum to discuss this subject. Tourism and Avian Influenza

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Business Continuity

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Financial Services

  • Identifying vital entities (banks, credit unions, insurance companies, etc.)
  • Continuity-of-business plans for each
  • Prioritizing resource allocation to maintain vital financial services (e.g. payroll processing, ATMs)
  • Local currencies and economic resilience?
  • Interface between local government and local financial
  • institutions during emergency
  • Interface between local individuals and entities, and larger (national or international) entities
  • Impact of emergency measures on local financial institutions and on individuals
  • Mitigating harm to individuals and institutions during and after pandemic emergency

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Public Life

  • Identifying high-risk instances
  • Business, cultural, and religious entities: restaurants, laundromats, salons, parks, pubs, bars, entertainment venues (theatre, music, sports, etc.), cultural institutions, houses of worship, other religious institutions
  • Educational and emergency measures for risk mitigation
  • Sensitive issues: weddings, funerals, etc.; significant public observances, major holidays, religious services. Relevance of diverse cultural practices in these and other areas

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Public Safety

  • Police department: priorities and continuity
  • Fire department: priorities and continuity
  • EMS / Paramedic services: priorities and continuity
  • Public safety infrastructure maintenance (vehicles, etc.)
  • Terrorist attacks as potential complicating factor
  • Interface with state/federal government in the event of declared state of emergency
  • Emergency backup plans including support from National Guard and/or other military entities

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  • Elections during pandemic emergency
  • Executive branch (Mayor’s Office etc.)
  • Legislative branch (City Council)
  • Judicial branch (local courts)
  • Administrative offices (personnel, as distinct from functions performed by same)
  • Continuity-of-government plans in the event of illness/death of elected & appointed officials

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Page last modified on October 11, 2009, at 07:06 PM by pogge