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 Tuesday, November 28, 2006 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter

Special Pandemic Flu Edition


Better Safe Than Sorry: Rehearsing for a Flu Pandemic
By Linda Besen, Publications and Creative Services

Two hundred beds lay ready to receive patients suffering from flu at the Surge Treatment Center at the Boulder County Fairgrounds on September 27. CU-Boulder was heavily involved in planning and executing the county-wide Surge Treatment Center exercise, in which emergency workers simulated how they would prepare for a surge of patients in a flu pandemic.

Michelle Law, radiation safety officer for the campus, designed the center floor plan and paid particular attention to creating "treatment pods" that would allow one medical person, such as a nurse, to treat at least 10 patients in the most efficient manner. She also supervised the setting up and taking down of the treatment center. In addition, Sylvia Dane, emergency management coordinator for CU-Boulder, and seven volunteers from CU, including five CERT (Citizen Emergency Response Team) members, helped with the exercise.

The unlikely event of a severe influenza pandemic could lead to high levels of illness, social disruption and economic loss. Mitigation efforts are underway at the university level also.

"It is essential that all departments update their business continuity plans," said Dane, who drafted the CU-Boulder Pandemic Response Plan that outlines how to handle a pandemic flu outbreak. "We create plans to ensure that we remain in operation during emergencies." With a possible high faculty, staff and student absentee rate (estimated up to 40 percent), critical operations would need to continue despite an interruption in basic services such as food deliveries, public transportation, and health care availability.

Business continuity plan considerations include identifying essential personnel and critical functions in the event of long-term disruptions; cross-training employees; identifying ways to "trade" workers between departments; and planning and testing methods for employees to work from home, if possible. Departments may need to stock up on personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves (contact Environmental Health & Safety for guidelines).

"Should a pandemic flu outbreak occur, the university will coordinate very closely with Boulder County Public Health in responding to the needs of the campus. Individual departments will implement their plans, and overall campus response will be coordinated by the campus policy group," said Dane. The policy group consists of the chancellor and vice chancellors, their key staff members, the campus police chief, legal counsel and others.

Personal preparation is also necessary: have a family emergency communication/contact plan; practice flu prevention techniques to minimize the spread of germs and prevent infection; and have food, medical and emergency supplies on hand.

For details, visit


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