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12/22/2005
03:33 PM
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An Emergency Collaborative Response

I'm writing this column from my home office.  Today is day three of the New York City transit strike.  As regular readers know, I am quite comfortable working from almost any venue; all I need is my laptop.  Connectivity is nice but given our infrastructure, it's also optional as I have local replicas of all of our research databases and authoring tools on the laptop.

As a result of the strike, millions of commuters who regularly travel into Manhattan have had to find either alternate means of transportation or an alternate workplace.  For me it was a no brainer.  As is the case with most of my colleagues at Basex, I work at home regularly.  Anyone at Basex can do so and there is no impact on operations.  In fact, telework has become the norm, not the alternative.

This week we released a report showing that 80% of businesses worldwide have failed to prepare for the type of business continuity emergency steps that a global pandemic influenza might occasion.  In such circumstances, absenteeism could rise to 25% above normal rates and, unlike a transit strike, this would continue for months.  Companies need to ensure that they can keep business moving.  An Emergency Collaborative Response, a crisis where a company's IT infrastructure -- including collaboration and knowledge sharing tools -- ensure business continuity is beyond the capabilities of most companies.In the event of a significant incident, companies need to be able to comply with local governmental recommendations such as requesting that employees stay home.  One company I spoke with about their preparations is IBM.  "At IBM, we already have an online environment that manages almost every aspect of an IBMer's work, regardless of physical venue," said Mike Wing, vice president of strategic communications at IBM.

But few companies are as far along in their preparedness as IBM and Basex.  In fact, most corporate managers have not begun to even contemplate what scenarios would play out in the event of a pandemic influenza.

We are making the report, Strengthening Corporate Pandemic Preparedness and Response, available from the Basex Web site at no charge at the Basex Web site. It outlines the issues companies face and provides clear, concise information that companies can use to begin formulating their own contingency plans.

I spent time discussing the situation with Dr. Isaac Weisfuse, deputy commissioner of disease control at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.  His comment: "the middle of the pandemic is not the time to start making arrangements."

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