Coronavirus and public health emergencies: are you prepared?


  • Advice

04 February 2020


The recent emergence of coronavirus in China, now spreading to other countries, raises an important question for organisations and our profession: are you prepared for a public health emergency?

In a recent mini-poll, we asked the profession: ‘In light of the coronavirus outbreak, how confident are you that your organisation is prepared to manage a public health emergency?’

48% of respondents were either not confident or unsure.

Facilities managers are one of the principle agents for managing an organisation’s response to such an issue. Please read on for our advice on what you and your organisation can do to be suitably prepared.


Following hundreds of deaths and many thousands of infections in China, plus dozens of infections in other countries, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared coronavirus a global emergency; however, this is mainly to drive support from the international community to countries which are less prepared for such emergencies. Closer to home, UK Chief Medical Officers have raised the risk to the public from low to moderate, although the NHS has said it is ‘extremely well prepared’.

What should organisations/professionals do?

Organisations can prepare by ensuring they have all the right processes and procedures in place now, before another emergency is identified. Infection management should be part of any employee centred, healthy workplace.

Risk management best practice requires those with responsibility for safeguarding their colleagues and the public to take threats like the coronavirus seriously.

If you haven’t already, please read our risk management Good Practice Guide, which is based on the international standard for Risk Management ISO 31000. This will help you gain a good understanding of how to identify and manage risk.

Disaster Recovery Journal webinar

American organisation DRJ have produced a very useful webinar titled ‘Coronavirus update: pandemic and infectious disease pandemic planning’, which is presented by Regina Phelps, an internationally recognised expert in the field of crisis management, continuity planning, and pandemic and infectious disease plans.

Please click here to listen to the webinar. Please be aware you will need to register to access it.

You can view the slides for the webinar here.

The synopsis for the webinar reads: ‘The following introduction was taken from When you pull out your old Pandemic Plan to review or are creating a new one from scratch, take a moment to rethink the plan and how it can be more helpful in more disease situations, not just the “once-in-a-blue-moon” event such as a global pandemic. There is a more useful way to view this important document – as an “all-purpose” disease plan rather than just a global pandemic guide.  Consider making an Infectious Disease & Pandemic Guide.’