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Wyoming: Business operators discuss how to prepare for pandemic

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  • Wyoming: Business operators discuss how to prepare for pandemic

    Business operators discuss how to prepare for pandemic

    Casper Star-Tribune
    CASPER, Wyo. - If a pandemic flu ever hits Wyoming, knocking out perhaps 40 percent of a typical company's work force, service industry operators will be prepared from experience.

    "We'd like to employ about 300 amongst our businesses," Pat Sweeney, owner of the Parkway Plaza, Poor Boys Steakhouse, the Wonder Bar and Old Town Fun Park told business owners, health professionals and national experts during a conference chronicling the effect of a pandemic flu on the business world.

    As it is, he's operating at about 20 to 25 percent below what is considered full staff at the hotel and convention center - not that different from many Wyoming businesses during this latest economic boom.

    "I think that's a pandemic already that we're dealing with across the state," he said. "What can small businesses do? React and hope to survive. That's what we're doing with the pandemic on work forces."

    For Sweeney, a pandemic flu might mean cordoning off several wings of the hotel for exposed guests, or shutting down his restaurants altogether to keep people from gathering and infecting each other with a new virus strain.

    Methods shared

    Some 60-plus business owners from all over Wyoming gathered Thursday to learn what could happen to their companies if a flu breaks out in the Cowboy State, and shared some methods to combat larger outbreaks and crippling operational shutdowns.

    Gregory Hager, managing director of the Dave Johnston Power Plant outside of Glenrock, told those at the conference that PacifiCorp, like during Y2K, is investing time and effort in protecting itself against the worst were a pandemic flu to hit the U.S.

    Relocation of employees

    The company, known as Rocky Mountain Power to Wyoming's electric bill payers, encompasses six states and employs 7,000, Hager said, a large number spread out across a large area. Hopefully, he said, those factors would help keep the power on in Wyoming. Most power plants, Hager said, store at least a month's supply of coal in the event that any type of disaster - flu included - would halt the supply chain. If the flu carries across the country in waves, Hager said skilled employees could be relocated to infected areas to replace sick workers.

    Steve Aldrich, founder and president of Bio Economic Research Associates, said educating employees is the "single most important thing you can do." That includes making sure that sick people stay home.

    Education, he said, is what will keep the economy afloat during a flu outbreak. Sweeney said educating his work force helped get him out of an outbreak situation at his hotel.

    Five years ago, Sweeney said a Norwalk virus sent 72 of his employees home sick from the Parkway, where the flu conference was held. As that experience unfolded, he said, workers attended mandatory hand-washing seminars and everyone wore rubber gloves. Eventually, the staff recovered.

    Published on Friday, September 07, 2007.
    Last modified on 9/7/2007 at 1:04 am

    Copyright ? The Billings Gazette, a division of Lee Enterprises.
    Last edited by Shannon Bennett; September 7, 2007, 11:48 AM. Reason: Business operators discuss how to prepare for pandemic
    Please do not ask me for medical advice, I am not a medical doctor.

    Avatar is a painting by Alan Pollack, titled, "Plague". I'm sure it was an accident that the plague girl happened to look almost like my twin.
    Thank you,
    Shannon Bennett