Now that every U.S. governor has declared a state of emergency to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, only businesses deemed essential can operate in this new environment. Although each state defines essential business differently, most agree that businesses providing indispensable services to the public can continue to operate. This can include, for example, supermarkets and grocery stores, daycare centers, healthcare facilities, hardware stores, gas stations and repair shops, pharmacies, banks and critical infrastructure like utilities and transportation. Companies that support these essential businesses’ supply chain operations are also allowed to operate.

Essential business operations should still meet public safety requirements. Receiving an essential business designation from a governor’s executive order does not guarantee that a company will remain ‘open for business.’ To remain operational and contribute to the nationwide goal of flattening the curve while still providing necessary services to the public, essential businesses need to take three steps.

Step 1: Develop a specific COVID-19 Emergency Action Plan

Staying in business is one thing. Staying in business during a global pandemic is something much more complex. Business operators must think beyond the emergency management plans they may have put on a shelf. Every day the doors are open there is a potential new crisis waiting to happen. That is why having a comprehensive COVID-19 Emergency Action Plan is the first step to support the safety of your staff, customers or clients and the broader public. The plan should include the following key components

  • Emergency Response Team Roles and Responsibilities
  • Public Health and Government Agency Coordination
  • Communications and Notifications (live and virtual)
  • Intelligence and Information Sharing
  • Employee Protective Measures
  • Facility / Plant Protective Measures
  • Inventory Management
  • Workplace Social Distancing Measures
  • Home and Workplace Sanitation Measures
  • Sick Employee Response Actions
  • Restricted Access Measures

Step 2: Train all essential employees how to implement the plan

This is definitely not the time to create a plan and set it on the shelf. The COVID-19 crisis is evolving on an almost hourly basis and even experts are at odds on how long it will last. It’s critical that all employees who play a vital role in the action plan are properly trained to implement it immediately and ongoing.

Steps 3: Appoint a Health and Hygiene Coordinator to enforce the plan daily

Someone has to be accountable on a daily basis for the proper execution of your pandemic plan. A Health and Hygiene Coordinator would be responsible for monitoring, enforcing and reporting compliance concerns related to the COVID-19 Emergency Action Plan. Consider someone currently within your organization to fulfill this role, but don’t hesitate to look outward if it is not a skill set you possess in-house.

The Public Counts on Your Business

Given the important role essential businesses play providing lifesaving supplies and equipment to our healthcare facilities – and basic life necessities to communities across the country, (e.g.., medicine, food, water, energy, communications) – it is imperative they stay in operation throughout the duration of this crisis. Developing and adhering to a COVID-19 Emergency Action Plan isn’t just good business sense, it’s also an important contribution to the resilience of our economy.

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