WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 29, 2007) - The Defense Department is preparing a pandemic flu guide for civilian employees, a senior official said.

The Defense Department released its Pandemic Influenza Implementation Plan in April, Patricia S. Bradshaw, deputy undersecretary of defense for civilian personnel policy, said May 25 in an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service.

The department's plan is part of the president's initiative to prepare the nation for a potential mass outbreak of deadly flu virus.

"And now, we're going to top that off with a DOD civilian human resources guide with a target audience of managers and employees," Ms. Bradshaw said.

She said the guide will outline specific things that managers, supervisors and employees need to do to prepare themselves for a possible flu pandemic or any other type of crisis. It's to be issued within the next four to six weeks, she said, and will be available on the Defense Department's pandemic flu Web site, fhp.osd.mil/aiWatchboard.

Pandemic flu is a fast-spreading human flu that causes a global outbreak, or pandemic, of serious illness that could sicken or kill hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people, according to the U.S. government's pandemic flu Web site. For example, the 1918 flu epidemic killed more than half a million Americans.

Any challenges inherent in preparing the department's roughly 600,000 civilian employees for a possible flu epidemic or other crisis aren't dissimilar to those faced by the private-sector work force, Ms. Bradshaw noted.

"I think the challenges are not unlike any (other) work force," Ms. Bradshaw explained. "If we have a crisis such as a pandemic, the real challenge here is maximizing social distancing as the preferred technique to employ, because it's a contagious disease."

Increased shift work, phone usage, teleconferencing and working from home are among the options DOD could employ to continue operations in the event a flu pandemic reaches the United States, Ms. Bradshaw said.

"You're trying to figure out how to keep people safe and well and, at the same time continue the operations of the department," she said. "And so, we'll really be looking at ways to do that."

Federal government guidance to state and local authorities has recommended the launch of pandemic flu preparedness exercises, she added.

"You can test to see where your gaps are and (where) your potential problems would be," Ms. Bradshaw explained, noting the federal government and the military already have conducted some exercises with civilian authorities.

The Defense Department plans to continue to provide work and pay to its civilian employees during a potential pandemic flu crisis, Ms. Bradshaw said. Again, the focus will be on employing social distancing to minimize potential devastating effects during a pandemic, she said.

"We're going to tell you, 'Please, don't come to work,'" Ms. Bradshaw said. Such a practice, she said, minimizes the spread of disease during a pandemic.

Additionally, Defense Department civilian managers need to determine how they'll continue performing their organization's core functions during a pandemic, Ms. Bradshaw said.

"What are the mission-essential functions that absolutely need to be done'" Ms. Bradshaw asked, especially tasks that can be accomplished online from home.

"The managers really need to think through what kind of work can be done away from the work site," she said. "Our goal is to ensure that our employees, to the maximum extent possible, can continue to work during such a pandemic."

(Gerry J. Gilmore writes for American Forces Press Service.)

Page last updated Thu May 3rd, 2012 at 15:09