Emergency Preparedness: Potential Pandemics in Multi-Residential Housing
Throughout the media there are increasing concerns about the possibility of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) spreading into a full-blown pandemic. The impact of COVID-19 on the economy can already be seen as the global markets have been hit hard by these concerns and supply chains and travel around the world have been severely interrupted. Today there are reports that two condominium corporations in Toronto are taking additional steps after an individual working as a guard at the property was diagnosed with COVID-19:
This is not meant to inspire panic. However, in our view, this is a good time for all businesses to review their emergency preparedness plans to determine if they appropriately consider and plan for addressing a potential pandemic. It is prudent to review and stay updated on current information about COVID-19 from your local Health Unit and Health Canada. In addition to considering any official recommendations from public health officials, we recommend that you consider the following questions to assist you in planning for a pandemic
impacting your operations:
Impact on Services: What services provided to occupants would you
consider as essential and what services could be reduced or postponed
during a pandemic? What would be the impact on occupants? Are there
staff, service providers or occupants that need to know this plan now?
Mitigation Steps: What additional measures could you introduce during
a pandemic to minimize the spread of illness within your building or
within your office space? For example, can you install additional hand
sanitizers in common areas, increased cleaning schedule for common
areas, are additional cautions or warnings appropriate to be posted, or
should you be closing common areas where germs are easily spread (i.e.
gyms, pools, saunas, playgrounds)? Do you encourage staff to practice
good hygiene and get an annual flu shot?
Managing Human Resources: Do you have policies in place that address staff overtime, illness and absenteeism? Would your existing policies cover “forced time off” such as if you are forced to reduce your services or close your office? Will you allow flexible working arrangements such as staggered hours or working from home? What would you do if staff/contractors/volunteers came to work with symptoms?
Communication: How will you keep your staff, service providers and occupants informed of any service changes or urgent information? Do you have an up-to-date contact list for employees, service providers, and occupants? Could staff access your building after hours if needed? Can you identify occupants who are likely to be most vulnerable and are you able to contact them?
Supplies: Distribution of goods and services could be disrupted if there is widespread absenteeism across all sectors. How long would you be able to sustain your services with current supply levels? Are you in a
position to stockpile supplies that are necessary for you to sustain your operations for six to eight weeks? Do you have adequate supplies to promote good hygiene, such as soap, tissues, paper towels, hand sanitizer?
Hopefully you will never need to implement your Emergency Preparedness
Policy but, if you do, it will be important that your policy provides practical and realistic guidance to your staff to mitigate your risks and the disturbance to your operations.