Pandemic Planning

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H1N1 Flu Virus
72-Hour Kit
EMRG Pandemic Plan
What About Masks
EMRG Services During A Pandemic
Existing Strategy

Additional Information

Ottawa Public Health
Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care
Public Health Agency of Canada
Canadian Red Cross
World Health Organization


As a volunteer organization that could be called on by our clients to assist them with communications during a pandemic, EMRG must have a plan for dealing with pandemics. The plan does not need to be complicated, but it must show reasonable due diligence, which includes a review of pertinent information, determining the possible impacts for EMRG, and developing guidelines and information to be distributed to EMRG members. If deployed. EMRG needs to ensure that our members are not in danger, and are not adding to the problem.

EMRG is not an expert on pandemics and we don't need to be. EMRG recognizes the City of Ottawa Public Health Department, called Ottawa Public Health, as the official source of information, risks and best practices. In an emergency, if EMRG members are deployed, EMRG would look to Ottawa Public Health for guidance if required, through the City's Office of Emergency Management (OEM).

H1N1 Flu Virus

"This year it's a different flu season. Not only do Ontarians need to prepare for seasonal flu, as we do every year, but this year we need to prepare for H1N1. H1N1 is a new strain of flu – something the world has been dealing with since the spring. Spread of the H1N1 flu virus is thought to be happening in the same way as seasonal flu. Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing. Sometimes people become infected by touching contaminated objects or surfaces and then touching their mouths or noses. The H1N1 flu appears to affect younger people more than the seasonal flu."

Copied from the flu information section of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care website.

Get the facts on H1N1:

72-Hour Kit

Everyone should have a 72-hour emergency kit, so they can support themselves in the event of an emergency. There are several good sources of information on what to put in a kit (EMRG Personal Preparedness). Expanding your 72-hour kit so you have food for a few extra days, and include items you would use if you are sick, such as tissues and cold/flu medications would be a good idea. By stocking up in advance, you will not need to go to the store once you realize you are sick, making life easier for you and helping to keep you from spreading the virus to others.

EMRG Pandemic Plan

The EMRG pandemic plan is still a work in progress and will be posted once it is reviewed and updated. The draft plan will be circulated to our clients to ensure they agree with and support the contents of the plan.

The key ares that the plan will address are:

  1. What are the Symptoms? What do you do if you have them?
  • This section will point to the Ottawa Public Health website as the source for information on Pandemics. For example with H1N1, there is a special section Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).
  • The EMRG plan will state that if EMRG is looking for volunteers, and a person has symptoms, they should STAY HOME!
  1. What are the Best Practices to prevent getting and spreading influenza?
    • Once again, the Ottawa Public Health website will be the guide to follow. The EMRG plan will also emphasize the key practices which includes:
      • Wash Hands Thoroughly and Often
      • Keep alcohol-based sanitizer handy to use when you cannot wash your hands
      • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your sleeve (don't use your hand because it will then touch surfaces and people, which spreads the virus)
      • If you have the symptoms, stay home to limit the spread of the virus to others
  1. Client Requests, Suggestions and Support.
  • EMRG provides communications support to our clients, so we operate at their request, in their locations, so we need to align with their pandemic plans and ensure that they recognize EMRG (or volunteers in general) in their plan. This requires discussion with each of the clients and their review of the EMRG pandemic plan to ensure we have common understanding and agreement.
  1. EMRG Operations Changes and Additions.
  • There are several areas in which EMRG will make changes or additions to our operating practices to meet the needs of pandemic planning.
    • EMRG Communications Centre at at OFS Dispatch:
      • Post signs for proper hand washing and use of hand sanitizer.
      • Post signs of symptoms and the request that anyone having these symptoms stay home.
      • Include hand sanitizer at several key locations for easy access.
    • EMRG Shelter Kits: Add hand sanitizer and wet wipes to the list of materials to include in a shelter kit. Also include signs for proper hand washing, use of the sanitizer and the list of signs and symptoms.
    • EMRG Member Information: Each person must asses their personal situation to determine if they would be available to deploy if requested. Some people, such as a sole care giver, or someone with medical issues should consider the risks to themselves and their family. There is no shame in recognizing that you have personal responsibilities and that you are not available for deployment under these circumstances.
    • Battery Backup: Current EMRG design requires repeaters to have at least 8 hours of battery backup. This provides sufficient time for a failed generator to be fixed or replaced, or for a logical move to another repeater, or hauling in additional battery power. With a pandemic, the power outage may be more prolonged, and/or there will be less EMRG people to bring in more batteries. The design requirement needs to be assesed, using real power requirements data and battery capacity, to determine if 8 hours is sufficient, or if it should be increased and if increased, to what duration.
    • Mutual Aid: While Mutual Aid is a key component of EMRG operations strategy, based on the assumption that there are neighbouring ARES groups who can provide assistance, is not likely to be possible in a pandemic. If Ottawa is impacted by influenza, most likely it will have impacted all of Eastern Ontario. While Mutual Aid from greater distances could be called upon, there may be issues with bringing people in over greater distance, reluctance to enter the area, or more likely a Province wide pandemic, so all areas have the same problems.
  1. EMRG Member Rights
  • If an EMRG member is concerned about their well being, they can identify this to the client manager in their location, or to the EMRG operations manager. No one will be sent to a location or to do a task they are uncomfortable with doing.

Wearing A Mask

EMRG will not request members to wear a mask, nor will EMRG provide masks. The recomendation or request for volunteers to wear a mask can only come from the client and the client must provide the masks, along with education on proper fitting of masks and the proper installation, removal and care of masks. While N95 is the standard referred to for health care workers' masks, N95 only specifies the filtering capabilities of the mask material. Cheap masks may be rated as N95, however they may not fit properly to provide the protection of the N95 mask worn by a health care worker. EMRG members have the option to not work in a location that requires a mask.

From Ottawa Public Heath, in the H1N1 Frequently Asked Questions section, the following information talks about wearing a mask:

"Wearing a mask to prevent infection from the novel H1N1 flu virus is generally not recommended. Evidence shows that people often use masks incorrectly, or contaminate themselves when putting masks on and taking them off, which could actually increase the risk of infection."

  • If you are feeling well, you do not need to wear a mask while going about daily business. You should instead take normal precautions to protect yourself as you would from a regular flu: wash your hands frequently and cover your coughs and sneezes. For added protection, stay at least two metres (six feet) away from individuals who show flu-like symptoms.

  • If you have flu-like symptoms, stay home until the fever is gone and you are feeling well. You could wear a surgical facemask to avoid exposing others to the flu, particularly when you must leave home (for example, to seek medical care).

  • If you are caring for a person with flu-like symptoms, consider wearing a surgical face mask if you are within two metres (six feet) of that person. Also ensure that you wash your hands after caring for the person. If you are at increased risk of severe illness from the flu, it would be best for you to leave this task to someone else.

EMRG Services During A Pandemic

EMRG would provide the same services for a Pandemic as for any type of Emergency of Disaster. If an EMRG client such as the City of Ottawa, or Ottawa Red Cross has a requirement for communications that EMRG can provide and they request EMRG to provide those services, then EMRG will activate and deploy to support them. The services would be to support local humanitarian relief efforts, which might include reception centres (shelters), or similar centres established for a different reason than the typical storm or natural disaster.

There are a few over imaginative Amateurs who believe that all communications might fail during a Pandemic and Amateur Radio will be the only remaining means of communications. This is not a realistic scenario for many reasons, such as the shear number of existing communications systems that must fail in order to achieve the notion of "everything" failing and the reality that radio amateurs tend to be older, and potentially in a segment of the population that might be hit by influenza, either directly or at least within their household. If everthing else had failed, then that would imply a lack of people to maintain and operate all these systems, so it is unlikely there would be many amateurs left to provide any kind of communications. Finally there is the reality that the volume of communications that would be lost if "everthing failed", compared to the capacity that Amateur radio could provide, especially with the few remaining Amateurs, would be like taking a squirt gun to a forest fire.

Existing Strategy

Pandemic planning reinforces one of the components of EMRG strategy. EMRG is developing communications solutions that are user friendly, so one EMRG person on site can provide the technical and license requirements, while client staff can use the voice or data communications solutions directly. Implementing a robust network, with simple end user communications solutions is critical to providing useful and sustainable service in a pandemic.