Businesses must focus on impact of pandemics, says risk specialist

Planning for the impact of a potential breakout is more important than preparing for specific diseases

Insurance News

By Gabriel Olano

Businesses must think broadly and plan for the impact caused by a pandemic rather than focus primarily on specific illnesses, according to a risk specialist that advised enterprises not to get tied up in the details, and instead think about the business interruptions that may arise.
At the 2016 Risk Management Society (RIMS) annual meeting in San Diego, ratings agency AM Best interviewed Gigi Norris, epidemiologist and managing director of Aon Risk Solutions' western region health care practice and discussed the risks pandemics and emerging diseases presented to businesses.
The most common disease is the pandemic flu in various forms, such as H1N1 and H5N1. Historical data shows that pandemic flus occur every 30-40 years. Influenza is very transmissible, hence the high infection rate. Norris also mentioned that emerging viruses such as Ebola and Zika will always be present, and new diseases will emerge.
According to Norris, employers should focus on business interruptions due to human capital, not just of employees, but also for their vendors, suppliers, and customers. Another point Norris stressed is implementing effective crisis communication. Fear of negative events such as pandemics or terrorism has the potential to cause as much harm as the event itself. Crisis communication must be timely and accurate, as misinformation and lack of information will cause a lot of damage.
John Scott, chief risk officer of Zurich Global, alsoidentified global disease outbreaks as a significant risk.
“Clearly a global pandemic of some sort will really be the thing that wipes out the human race at some point,” he told Insurance Business UK.
“It is a fact that we’ve had pandemics – the last one was Swine Flu and it did get around the world -- but fortunately it wasn’t as virulent as it could have been, and that’s a difficult thing to say.”

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