Preventing Pandemonium: Pandemic preparedness planning and successful communicable disease outbreak management in a university setting
The prospect of a possible influenza pandemic 1 spurred the senior administration at the University of Alberta to commission a Public Health Response Committee [PHRC] 2 to develop a Public Health Response Strategy (Strategy) 3 . The PHRC began work in January 2006 to develop a decision-making model, business continuity plan, human resources plan and communications plan that would be operationalized in the event the University faced a major public health event. This article provides an overview
... ovides an overview of the ongoing development of the Strategy. As well, it describes how a recent outbreak of norovirus in a large student residence enabled the emergency response team to apply and assess the Strategy during an actual public health situation. Key lessons learned relate to the importance of raising awareness and understanding of emergency preparedness and response on campus, crisis communications practices, and adequate provision of resources related to emergency preparedness and response. The PHRC is a multi-disciplinary team with 27 representatives composed of students, faculty and staff from key areas of the University, and from external agencies, including the regional health authority for the region (Capital Health) and the Alberta provincial government. In carrying out its mandate, the Committee's priorities include an emphasis on planning for and ensuring, insofar as is possible, the health, safety and security of staff and students, maintaining the essential services of the University, and communicating effectively with stakeholders and partners, including all levels of government. Governments and institutions, including the University, will be called on to make difficult decisions in the event of a serious public health event such as a flu pandemic. Thus, a key component of the Strategy has been to identify a set of ethical principles to facilitate ethical decision-making in the best interests of the University community, as well as the community at large. The following "NOFLU" ethical principles were drafted after a review of the literature regarding ethics and public health. 4 They have been adopted by the PHRC in its approach to developing the Strategy. NOFLU will guide decision-making in the event of a public health emergency: 1. Need to protect: While there is a need or duty to take steps to protect the community generally (see utilitarianism below), there is also the need or duty to protect Health Law Review -16:1 (2007) Key to the success was the cooperation of students, and, in particular, that of student staff and volunteers who took an active role in implementing surveillance.