DHSS Offers Missouri Businesses Help in Emergency, Pandemic Flu Planning

 DHSS Offers Missouri Businesses Help in Emergency, Pandemic Flu Planning

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) said today that it is offering Missouri’s small and mid-sized businesses help with planning for a wide range of emergencies, including pandemic influenza.

The department recently contacted 14,000 Missouri businesses that have between 25 and 5,000 employees and offered them information and resources that can help them begin and/or improve their emergency response plans. In addition, the department has partnered with the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Missouri and the National Federation of Independent Business to reach their memberships totaling nearly 20,000 employers with these important preparedness tools. The department also is working in conjunction with Missouri’s local public health agencies to provide Ready in 3 resources to local chambers of commerce to be used to educate their members on the importance of planning in advance of emergency situations.

“Most Missouri businesses probably have basic emergency plans for fires, storms and other dangers that could slow or even stop daily operations. However, only the largest businesses are likely to have resources to fully plan for these and other potentially devastating threats, such as pandemic influenza,” said Jane Drummond, DHSS director. “This leaves the small and mid-sized employers, which make up a large portion of Missouri’s business community, to just do the best they can to plan for the emergencies that could possibly shut them down. Plus, they may not have begun to plan for flu pandemic. We wanted to reach out to these businesses and provide them with some tools for planning and for helping their employees prepare as well.”

Drummond said that nearly every business has employees that suffer from the seasonal flu each year, with some even missing work. Pandemic flu, however, is different and can be much worse, causing a worldwide epidemic of a new flu virus that spreads easily. Unlike the seasonal flu, pandemic flu could prevent up to 40 percent of workers from reporting to work for several weeks due to illness or caring for family. She said that pandemic flu is a future reality that employers and employees alike must accept and for which they must prepare now.

“I really want to urge Missouri businesses to do all they can to prepare for all types of emergencies, and to include pandemic flu in that planning,” said Drummond. “We haven’t seen it yet, but our experts believe that it only is a matter of time before we all are faced with pandemic flu. It is prudent for all of us to get ready.”

To help all Missourians, including employers and their employees, DHSS developed a series of informational resources under the Ready in 3 umbrella. These resources encourage and assist people to take three basic steps to prepare for emergencies: create a plan, prepare an emergency kit, and listen for related information. Also part of the Ready in 3 resource series is information on pandemic flu planning, which also emphasizes three easy steps: learn about pandemic flu, plan for when the pandemic strikes, and protect oneself and others from the new flu. Included in the planning resources is a business planning guide, a community planning guide, a family safety guide, and a wide array of posters, videos and checklists that nearly everyone can use to be ready for emergencies.

Additional pandemic influenza resources available to businesses can be found at www.dhss.mo.gov/PandemicInfluenza/Businesses.html. For more free information and materials on emergency planning, visit the Ready in 3 web site at www.dhss.mo.gov/Ready_in_3.

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