06:24 PM

Gartner: Put Pandemic Plans In Place For 2006

With the avian-flu epidemic "almost certain," the consulting firm is recommending that companies have plans and processes in place to allow large numbers of knowledge workers to work from home for extended periods, among other things.

Enterprises should use the next year to prepare for a possible pandemic of avian influenza, a research firm said.

Citing World Health Organization (WHO) claims that a pandemic is "almost certain," Gartner analyst Ken McGee posted several recommendations in an online note to clients.

"Enterprises should take the widespread agreement on the strong likelihood of a pandemic -- and the U.S. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections of the devastating economic consequences of such a pandemic -- as a signal to take immediate action," wrote McGee.

Among his recommendations, McGee advised enterprises to have plans and process in place to allow large numbers of knowledge workers to work from home for extended periods; make sure that communication can be maintained to suppliers, partners, and customers; and provide for backup communications in the event conventional phone, wireless, DSL, and cable are overloaded.

These response plans should be set by mid-year at the latest, said McGee.

Earlier this month, the CBO released a report with projections on the likely economic impact of a pandemic on the United States, and concluded that in a "mild" scenario, 100,000 Americans would die and the gross domestic product (GDP) would drop 1.5 percent.

In "severe" scenario, however, the death count would climb to approximately 2 million, with a 5 percent drop in the GDP that would lead to an economic recession.

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