Pandemic Preparedness and Response Planning – Pandemic Preparedness and Response Committee, Working Groups, and Roles and Responsibilities

Pandemic Preparedness and Response Planning – Pandemic Preparedness and Response Committee, Working Groups, and Roles and Responsibilities

This post is the fifth in an ongoing series on pandemic preparedness and response planning. It builds on the previous post, Pandemic Preparedness & Response Planning – Assessing Risks to Enhance Decision-Making. If you haven’t already read that, take a few minutes to do so before diving into this post.

The last post in this series described the risk identification and risk management sections of a pandemic response plan and identified a number of potential risks and planning topics to be addressed. This post will discuss the most important aspects of the pandemic preparedness and response process—who makes the decisions and develops the procedures, and who does what work.

  • Introduction
  • Risk Identification
  • Risk Management
  • Roles and Responsibilities
  • Administrative Controls
  • Engineering 
  • PPE and Emergency Response Equipment
  • Drills/Exercises
  • Employee Training
  • Coordination with Outside Entities 
  • Business Operations/Continuity Planning
  • CommunicationPlan Activation

Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Teams

As we have all learned over the past four months, it is virtually impossible to identify all risks and consequences prior to seeing how an actual, severe global pandemic unfolds in the U.S.  However, having an established infectious disease preparedness and response team, plan, and decision-making processes already in place better equips an entity to address the known and unknown risks and implications. The foundation of an effective planning and response effort is identifying the decision makers, the planners, and the implementers; and assigning specific roles and responsibilities.  Management systems 101 has taught us that what gets measured gets done, and where there is accountability and ownership, positive results usually follow. 

Pandemic Preparedness Response Committee/Infectious Disease Committee

Establishing a facility pandemic preparedness and response committee (also referred to as an infectious disease committee and hereinafter referred to as the “committee”) to lead an organization’s pandemic planning and response effort is usually the first step in the process. The committee is typically comprised of senior decision makers from different core departments and each member will have key responsibilities in guiding a facility’s pandemic and response planning efforts. Team composition will vary depending on the type of facility. Committees tend to be larger at complex siloed organizations.  

Here are some examples of individuals, roles or departments that may be represented on the committee at three different types of entities:

Manufacturing/industrial

  • Plant Manager 
  • Operations/Production
  • Virus Prevention and Protocol Lead
  • Legal Counsel/Risk Management 
  • VP Finance
  • Employee Access Control/Security
  • Cleaning and Disinfecting
  • Communications
  • Materials, Resources and PPE Lead (Procurement?)
  • Information Technology (IT) 
  • Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S)
  • COO/VP Finance
  • Contract employee and/or union representatives

College and University

  • Medical Director or Chief Nursing Officer 
  • Office of the President 
  • Vice President of Student Affairs Office 
  • Vice President of Finance
  • Dean of Students
  • University public relations/communications staff 
  • Legal Counsel/Risk Management 
  • Human Resources 
  • Student Health Services (SHS) Director
  • University’s emergency preparedness team 
  • Local emergency room/hospital/emergency medical services partners 
  • International Studies Office/Study abroad programs representatives 
  • Housekeeping/facilities management/environmental services representatives 
  • Information Technology (IT) 
  • Campus safety 
  • Counseling/psychological services 
  • Food services
  • Housing/Residence Life 
  • Academic Deans and/or advisors 
  • Student government representative 
  • Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S)
  • Biological Safety Officer (BSO)

Correctional Facility

  • Security
  • Health Services
  • Behavioral Health
  • Maintenance and Services
  • Legal
  • Food services
  • Information Technology (IT)
  • Employee/union representatives
  • Emergency management

Pandemic Preparedness and Response Work Groups

Each Committee member is typically responsible for leading the facility’s planning and response efforts with respect to issues within their scope of responsibility. However, much of the initial planning, protocol, and standard operating procedures development is delegated to various working groups. The working groups are typically comprised of supervisors and managers of departments that will be uniquely impacted as well as employees that will be responsible for implementation. For example, at a major university the Director of Facilities may sit on the committee as the housekeeping lead and may lead the working group charged with developing cleaning and disinfection planning and implementation. The workgroup for housekeeping may also include: Custodial Supervisor, EH&S health and safety officer, BSO, Materials Manager, Union representative, finance representative, and a medical advisor or occupational health representative.

Roles & Responsibilities

Roles and responsibilities, reporting structures, and the incident command structure during a pandemic should be very clearly defined in the plan to avoid confusion during response implementation. The more clearly defined, the more likely it will be for a facility to avoid confusion, redundancies, infection spread, and mistakes. In general, the Committee is responsible for setting policies, has the authority to bind the entity, and implementing responses. Work groups are responsible for developing initial procedures and implementing them during a pandemic.  Specific roles and responsibilities may include:

Committee

  • Preparedness and Response Plan
  • Exposure Mitigation, Isolation, Tracking, Treatment
  • Response Implementation
  • Coordination with Local Government Agencies and Healthcare
  • Employee/Student Safety
  • Internal /External Communications
  • Resource Supply, Availability, Distribution
  • Business Operations, Continuity, Shut Down, Startup
  • Finances 

Work Group

  • Protocol and Procedure Development
  • Training
  • Implementation

This section of a Pandemic Preparedness and Response Plan should also define specific individual roles and responsibilities. For example:

Plant Manager: overall responsibility for site’s Pandemic Preparedness and Response Plan, coordinating with EH&S and corporate. Plant Manager chairs the Committee, has overall responsibility for: employee safety; exposure containment; ensuring a safe work environment; organized plant operations, shut-down, and start-up.

Communications Director: overall responsibility for developing the communication plan.  The Director will be responsible for approving and potentially delivering all significant internal and external communications related to the facility with respect to a pandemic. Will lead the communication work group which will define goals of communications plan for various scenarios, audiences, and media; develop key messages and how those messages are delivered (e.g., social media, press release, email, website, etc.).

Facilities that identify the right decision makers, protocol developers, and response implementers; clearly define roles and responsibilities; and develop effective plans, procedures and protocols that can be implemented quickly in response to a pandemic, should be able to limit and contain exposure, control spread, and provide the necessary resources to isolate, quarantine, and provide treatment to their employees once a pandemic hits. In the next post we will explore infection controls options including: Workplace Controls: Administrative Controls; Engineering Controls; Safe Work Practices; and PPE. 

Author

National Practice Leader
Environmental Compliance

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