Effect Measure

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.


  1. #1 Caroline
    June 28, 2009

    Boy- I wish everyone could feel secure about their immune system that they would not have to worry so much. Our family has been taking Vidazorb probiotics in hopes of boosting our immunities! I have read so much lately on how probiotics really have been shown to help with this among so many other things! Caroline

  2. #2 Joe Bloggs
    June 29, 2009

    Caroline (is that even her name?) is attempting to promote an opportunistic scam in comment 1.

    FDA news release warning of such scams:


    from vidazorb.com

    “Concerned About Recent Health Crises like Swine Flu?
    Vidazorb® can be your front-line defense.”


    “Taking Vidazorb® chewable probiotic supplements may improve the body’s ability to stave off viruses like swine flu and food poisoning and mitigate the common symptoms of nausea and diarrhea.”

    The website appears to present no information supporting the claims regarding swine flu, however it does say Vidazorb pills cost over $2 per person per week and contain bacteria similar to those found in yoghurt.

    Sad and hilarious, all at once.

  3. #3 Rod
    June 29, 2009

    The Associated Press is reporting (2:40 pm EDT June 29) that the CDC and the Pentagon confirm a patient in Denmark has a Tamiflu-resistant case of swine flu — by which I presume they mean novel H1N1, but AP has persisted in calling it “swine” flu.

  4. #4 Hank Roberts
    July 1, 2009

    Just happened on this, I have no connection to the firm or authors, but it’s an interesting cautionary take, put online by a law firm, I think in Chicago, from

    Food and Drug Law Journal
    VOLUME 64 NUMBER 1 2009

    Pandemic Influenza: Is There a
    Corporate Duty to Prepare?


    —excerpt follows—-

    This article considers whether in the wake of an influenza pandemic companies may be exposed to claims of legal liability for failing to provide employees with access to antiviral medications, as the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) now encourages businesses to do. It begins by describing influenza and influenza pandemics. It then discusses the benefits and limitations of antiviral therapies and the recent creation of antiviral option programs. It concludes by considering whether claims may be brought on the theory that corporate leadership is under a duty to prepare for a pandemic by considering whether to provide access to antiviral protection for employees….

    … The best evidence we have, however, suggests that we need to be prepared for a crisis that may persist over an extended period of time—probably in excess of 12 or possibly 18 months. In a single community, however, a wave may last only eight to 12 weeks before subsiding. WHO has predicted that in the event the organism becomes capable of efficient human-to-human transmission, up to 25 percent of the population could be affected in any one wave, causing worker absenteeism rates to exceed 35 percent.16 …”

    Just lawyers stirring up work? The landscape has certainly changed since the last pandemic.

    But corporations may be in a position to buy up the limited supply of drugs and equipment (ventilators??) and hoard it, which seems, um, counterproductive.

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