27 April 2009 22:08 [Source: ICIS news]
WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--Top US security officials placed calls on Monday to chemical manufacturers and other critical industries to urge precautionary measures against a swine flu epidemic, sector officials said on Monday.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initiated a conference call with hundreds of representatives of chemical producers, electric utility operators, agricultural and transportation officials and trade groups for energy, communications and water system suppliers.
It was the first such conference call to be initiated by the department in response to the developing swine flu outbreak.
The conference call was made under an emergency notification procedure within the National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP).
That multi-industry plan was established by DHS after the 2001 terrorist attacks in the ?xml:namespace>
Ted Cromwell, senior directory for security and operations at the American Chemistry Council (ACC), was one of hundreds of industry representatives called to the teleconference with DHS officials on Monday concerning the outbreak of swine flu in
“They just wanted to alert everyone, asking that we all be thoughtful and smart and take routine precautions that could help avoid the spread of an epidemic if it should get to that level,” Cromwell said.
He said the department did not declare an emergency or indicate that such a declaration was even close.
“It was just a matter of raising awareness, telling people that if they’re not already taking action that they should be doing so, to instruct employees to take normal precautions, such as washing hands frequently, and that workers who have a fever should stay home or be sent home if necessary,” he said.
The plans include DHS telephone and e-mail alerts to summon designated company and trade group representatives to a conference call as crisis situations develop.
Cromwell said that Monday’s conference call with the department came just as ACC was compiling responses from member companies to a survey the council issued earlier about swine flu preparations.
“Our members indicated that they are restricting travel to
“At this point of course there are no production consequences,” he said, “but our members are pulling out pandemic plans and work continuity plans, identifying those employees that can effectively work from home, that sort of thing.”
Cromwell said the preparations are similar to the early stages of precautionary planning for hurricanes in which production site operators make sure they have contingencies for medical care, business continuity, essential staff and other needs.
Chemical plant operators also would be expected to identify and notify so-called ride-out crews - teams of essential employees needed to stay on-site to keep a facility at minimum operational level to ride out the storm.
“The difference between a hurricane and something like this, a possible epidemic, is that you can’t be sure who might be available or who might come down ill, so you have to put together different contingency plans to keep a facility running safely and securely,” he said.
He said the DHS at this point does not plan to hold daily conference calls with critical infrastructure representatives. Such daily briefing and coordination calls were held for weeks following the August and September 2005 hurricanes that devastated chemical plants, refineries and other infrastructure along the
Cromwell also said that the department reassured the various industry and service sector officials that there are no plans at present to shut down the border with
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