Feed Bites

How to Prepare Your Business for Coronavirus

Written by: Leah Wilkinson   |   March 6, 2020

Coronavirus, Ensuring a stable food supply

While you would not think it from the news and your social media feeds, the risk to the average American from the new coronavirus (COVID-19) is still low. However, if you are near Seattle or have family or friends there, you are well aware that there are pockets in the U.S. where the virus is spreading more rapidly, bringing more attention to ways we can prepare for the virus should it spread further. Now is an opportune time to look at the policies and procedures in place for your animal food business to protect your employees and still be able to provide feed and pet food to your customers.

The White House held a call for business leaders this week where they shared information about the steps that could be taken now that will help businesses prepare for and hopefully achieve continuity of operations in the event of travel restrictions, closures and quarantines. Officials reiterated that public health emergencies, just like natural disasters, are locally coordinated, state managed and federally supported. That means businesses should connect with their local and state contacts in advance of an emergency to understand what the response plans would look like and how their businesses can work within any potential actions.

As it should be, most of the focus in case of an outbreak is protecting the health and safety of the people in the local area. In reality though, livestock and pets will still need to be fed, which means animal food will need to be made and delivered in a timely fashion. How does our industry do that in the face of quarantines, closures and potentially ill employees?

While the risk may be low in your area, now is the time to prepare your business for continued operations in the case of an event. Businesses desire predictability, but emerging diseases are difficult to predict. This time provides an opportunity to work to manage uncertainty and do our part to prepare. Some suggestions include:

  • Stay updated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on recommended strategies.
  • Connect with your local officials.
    • Know who they are now before an emergency strikes.
    • Sign up for any alert notification systems they may have.
    • Learn the local/county/state plans in case of an emergency or quarantines.
    • Discuss with officials your business and need to deliver feed to livestock and poultry so that goals can be set on how to best accomplish that together.
  • Review your human resource policies for sick time, work from home, etc.
  • Look at your office space design. Can you move people so they are not within 6 feet of each other?
  • Can you allow for staff to work flexible schedules in the case of school closures or modify work schedules so employees are not in close contact?
  • Are you set up for people to work from home easily? Have you determined who needs to physically come into the office or manufacturing facility and who can stay home?
  • Is it possible to reduce the human interactions that happen in the course of a business day? For example, can truck drivers drop paperwork off somewhere without having to come into the office?  
  • If illnesses begin popping up in your area, can you ramp up production or delivery schedules before quarantines may be put in place?
  • Can a meeting or training be done via conference call or webinar? There are many services out there (some are even free to use!) – start testing them before you need them.
  • Practice what you preach – corporate leaders need to lead by example and follow the established policies.

Similar to any crisis, the best words of advice are prepare, prepare and prepare. Work with your key managers – I’m sure they have ideas and questions that will help you develop your plan of action. And after it’s all done, don’t forget to regroup and assess what went well, what could be improved and ideas for next time (because there will likely be a next time).

 

 

 

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