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Pandemic flu drill will reduce municipal staff by half August 14

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  • Pandemic flu drill will reduce municipal staff by half August 14

    Great Idea. Other employers should try this, even if you don't want to call it "Pandemic Assessment", try and see what happens, just be sure you have someone available to take notes.

    Pandemic flu drill will reduce municipal staff by half August 14
    By Kimberly Phillips, Journal Inquirer

    MANCHESTER - Town operations may run slower on Aug. 14 when employees simulate what could happen during a pandemic flu outbreak that reduces the number of municipal workers by half.

    The drill, which will stretch from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. that day, will test the town's ability to continue functioning while half the number of staff are ill or taking care of sick family members.
    In this case, however, half the staff will report to training in the morning and the other half will receive the same training in the afternoon, town Human Services Director Mary Roche Cronin said today.
    Officials chose mid-August for the drill since town services typically slow during that time as many residents leave on vacation, Cronin explained, and many town summer programs have finished for the year.
    There is an hour-by-hour framework for the drill, she added, but details of that are being withheld so the effort is as true to life as possible.
    Town Health Director Maryann Cherniak Lexius said today that it's important to keep certain details private to most accurately test the town's ability to function in the event of a pandemic.
    What will happen, though, is employees will be split into two groups, the first of which will report off-site for two hours of training on pandemic flu issues, then for the rest of the morning, department-specific issues related to the flu. In the afternoon the two groups will switch.
    Cronin stressed that certain exceptions will be made for emergency services and departments holding already scheduled events.
    Police and fire still will make a full response to emergency situations, she said. There may be delays in certain offices in Town Hall, however.
    Local health officials have spent the last eight months developing a plan to cope with pandemic flu, which it is estimated would infect 12,000 Manchester residents, hospitalizing 400 of them and killing 345 should it hit this area.
    Pandemic flu likely will be the result of the avian flu that now is infecting poultry and being passed on to handlers, officials have said. The virus is expected to mutate so that those handlers pass it on to their families through person-to-person contact.
    Until a vaccine can be developed, a process that could take months, communities may have to enact emergency plans like the one Manchester has developed. This may include measures from all-out quarantines to using personal protection devices such as facemasks.
    Health officials told business leaders during a forum this month they should expect a 40 percent absenteeism rate due to employees getting sick, caring for family members, or being afraid to leave home.
    On the town side, officials are preparing to continue offering water and sewer service in addition to aid related to the pandemic and general public safety. Libraries would close, recreation activities would cease, and schools would dismiss classes.
    Meetings like the one with the business community are expected this summer with nonprofit organizations and faith-based groups. Also, officials are working to schedule forums for residents to brief them on how to prepare.
    Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Wayne I. Rioux said today that while other municipalities are testing their pandemic flu plans, Manchester is one of the first to assess its ability to operate at 50 percent capacity.