With this year's brutal hurricane season officially over and winter looming, many bankers likely have business continuity and disaster recovery on the brain -- and rightly so. The vulnerability of infrastructures and the devastating consequences of not being prepared for a catastrophe have been demonstrated vividly in recent months.
While individuals may have little or no control over their destinies in the face of a hurricane, tornado, blizzard or other natural disaster, businesses and government entities are expected to have recovery plans in place that ensure that operations keep going and (perhaps with a reasonable delay) allow the delivery of vital services to customers. When all is said and done, banks have a pretty good track record on this count.
But there may be a kind of disaster looming that even the most recovery-savvy businesses have not anticipated -- a major flu outbreak. (Of course, this is not the same as the deadly bird flu, which, while a frightening threat, is not expected to be a major factor in the U.S. -- yet.) But, even with all the warnings, taking the most obvious step to prevent an outbreak -- getting a flu shot -- is turning out to be a challenge.
It wasn't supposed to be this way. After last year's flu shot fiasco, when flu vaccines were in extremely short supply, the situation this year was supposed to be under control. The British vaccine manufacturer that was at the root of the vaccine shortage last year rectified its production problems, and businesses and the public were ready to act promptly.
So what's happening? Shortages of flu vaccine. Doctors' offices are receiving much less vaccine than they expected, and businesses (including my company) that plan to provide flu shots to their employees are not getting their shipments.
The implications are as serious as a looming hurricane. Business continuity ultimately depends on employees to keep systems and services up and running; if large numbers of employees are too sick to report to work, there are significant challenges to doing so. In a normal winter, that's just an inconvenience, and hopefully that's all that will transpire. But, recent history is teaching us that the unanticipated is all too likely to happen. There's more than one kind of virus that can wreak havoc with a bank's operations.