National Preparedness Month starts next week. This year, in addition to stressing the necessary preparations for natural disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires, the focus will be on a new challenge: pandemic flu.
The H1N1 virus (the illness formerly known as swine flu) is expected to come back strong in the fall and agencies have to be prepared to continue operating in the event federal employees become infected, said Josh Sawislak, acting chief of the General Services Administrationâ€™s Office of Emergency Response and Recovery.
For GSA, pandemic preparation is more than making sure federal agencies have enough hand sanitizer to go around, Sawislak said. With a virus that spreads as quickly as H1N1, the agency will also have to ensure it quickly notifies tenants of federally owned and leased space when a fellow fed falls ill with H1N1, while protecting the privacy of the individual, he said.
Preparedness is also about making sure employees are up-to-date on their telework policies and training in case employees need to be quarantined or offices need to close to prevent the spread of the virus, Sawislak said in an interview. GSA sets telework policy for the government and runs telework centers for federal agencies.
â€œItâ€™s important to be equipped and trained to do it and to have other people know how to work with [teleworkers]when theyâ€™re not in the office,â€ Sawislak said.
Sawislak and others will be dispensing this advice, along with personal and professional preparedness tips for pandemic flu and other emergencies, at training events throughout September.
â€œEmbrace the boy scout motto and work hard to â€˜be prepared,â€™â€ Sawislak said.
For more information on disaster and flu preparedness for your home and family, visit Ready.gov.