By Bob Witham, OIT Security
In April and May of 2009, the first threat of a pandemic flu situation was realized. The Office of Information Technology (OIT) began planning for the threat as did almost every state agency to some degree. Within OIT, Core Technology Service provides the basic infrastructure technology and data processing services that the State of Maine relies on, it is critical for us to ensure continuity of those services should a pandemic situation cause a direct reduction of available staff. Other considerations involve the possibility of a forced closure of buildings and travel restrictions. Employees who live in outlying areas may be prohibited from traveling to local offices due to an outbreak in Augusta , or an outbreak in their home locale. Still other employees may not be able to come to the jobsite due to the need to care for sick family members. All of these considerations and more enter into our planning and preparation for continuity of service.
Much of our planning has been devoted to identification of critical services that are provided by on-site staff as opposed to those services we can manage and maintain remotely. As technology has improved and more services are managed via browser based interfaces, our technical staff has utilized remote administration. In fact, our analysis found that, in the case of an emergency, it is only Data Center operations, print staff and emergency repair staff who would be required to work on-site. The vast majority of tasks could be performed remotely. The ability to administer operations remotely means less person to person contact and thus less opportunity to spread the flu among the workforce.
The Federal Center for Disease Control is predicting the potential loss of up to 40% of the workforce for a period of six to eight weeks. Of course, this does not mean that the same 40% staff will be lost for the entire period, but that at any given time, there may be only 60% of normal staff available for work. Not all staff will be sick, and, as mentioned above, many will be at home caring for sick family members, or may be unable to come to work for reasons other than personal illness.
Current plans predict that we will be able to continue providing our normal day-to-day services even if a 40% reduction of staff is realized. Such a severe reduction will force curtailment of some of our less critical functions, to be addressed after taking care of normal operations. We may need to postpone certain upgrades of equipment and software until more staff becomes available. Some maintenance activities may need to be postponed as well, or delayed until the weekend. OIT is looking at every possibility to ensure that we can provide services to our customers where necessary.
Customers can help us by preparing their own Pandemic Response Plans and sharing them with their OIT Technical Business Consultant. Helping us understand what is most critical to business operations and the plan for maintaining those operations during a pandemic will help us to better meet your needs. We are particularly interested in any plans for relocation of workforce, teleworking, or any other method considered to maintain business functions. We all hope that the fear of the flu is more than it amounts to in reality. If we plan together, we will be better able to continue to provide necessary services to the citizens of Maine .
Click here to locate your Technical Business Consultant (link available to State employees only)