A few days ago we posted about hedge funds getting ready for a swine flu pandemic. At the time we wondered what other industries and businesses were getting ready. We don’t know the answer, but we are seeing more signs the message has gotten through. Yesterday we saw this story about a regional airport in Arizona:
The Valley’s Mesa-based reliever airport is gearing up to operate with a surprisingly lean staff should the Swine Flu pandemic decimate the airfield’s workforce.
Keeping Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport flightworthy with a skeleton crew was added earlier this month to mandatory emergency preparedness training that airport managers say is vital to sustain services when they’re most needed at the former Air Force Base.
At the state’s biggest airport, Phoenix Sky Harbor International, a “continuity of operations plan is consistently exercised and reviewed in the event of incidents like this,” said airport spokeswoman, Alisa Smith.
Operating Gateway with a couple dozen employees, almost a quarter of its entire workforce, may sound like an invitation to chaos, said Williams.
But with the H1N1 swine-flu virus outbreak now classified as a global pandemic and expectations that the disease will make many more Arizonans ill and unable to work this fall, preparing to operate the airport with a decimated staff is essential, she said.
“Luck is not a strategic plan,” Williams said. “We have to quit the denial that this can’t happen to us.” (Art Thomason, Arizona Republic)
The Gateway plan is interesting for its common sense. Airport managers know that if the well-being of employees families is not secured first, they can forget about their having workers show up. They are concentrating on home front preparedness, with family emergency data information, medical history, family emergency supply and readiness checklists. They are now working on a Disaster Employee Support Team to provide timely information about non-operational matters like employee status to allow operational managers and other critical personnel to focus on the business of running the airport:
Phase three will focus on the extended family and pooling available resources to family members while employees are engaged in airport response and recovery efforts.
Though the disaster plan is meticulous and its training requirements time-consuming, the airport has a head start on emergency response in that scores of its employees are already skilled in two or more technical disciplines, airport officials said.
“Cross training of staff is a critical component of emergency preparedness,” said Airport Executive Director, Lynn Kusy. “Our airfield maintenance technicians have been formally trained in airport operations, most of our department leaders have experience in more than one element of airport management, and we make it a practice to hire deeply skilled aviation employees.”
This is a small regional airport. I don’t know how many other efforts like this are underway, but this is quite impressive.
And I hope not that unusual.