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Pandemic Recovery

Purpose and Concerns Behind Recovery Planning

The following series of questions are designed to help your organization consider a wide array of safety and health issues and make choices that allow your personnel to return safely, avoiding additional illness, lost work time, and the workers compensation claims. Differences in strategy may be necessary to accommodate many things such as (but not limited to):

  • Whether you are a large agency, a small agency housed with others in a large shared building, a small agency in your own, easily isolated workspace, or a campus with multiple buildings
  • The setup of your workspace, traffic patterns, and size of shared areas
  • The frequency of entry by the public or others who might not observe the same precautions
  • The health and vulnerabilities of your personnel and customers
  • Budget available to maximize capabilities
  • Leadership choices and compatibility with other organizational strategies

The questions should be used as a starting place for your planning process, focusing you on topics that are often useful. Modify as needed to build the best recovery plan your organization can manage at the time of need.  

  • Some topics may be missing so create your own as needed
  • Some may not pertain to your organization and you can skip those
  • Others may be impossible to strategize at this point but should be added to the multi-year strategic plan and budget strategy to enhance capabilities at a later date.

Recovery Planning Guidance

Return of the Workforce:

  • What is the minimum number of staff needed to continue operations?
  • Order of return to the workplace:
    1. Who should come back first?
      • People who conduct tasks that are difficult or impossible to do remotely
      • People who have recovered from the infection and may have built a resistance
    2. Who should come back last?
      • People who are able to complete the same amount of work at the same quality and in the same time from their remote location (if they’re more safe and just as effective it may be best to keep them remotely located for a while)
      • People with pre-existing or other health issues that make them more vulnerable
      • People who have not yet been infected
  • How can you adopt a ‘new normal’ schedule?
    1. Split groups of staff who do the same work into groups and alternate the days they are allowed to come into the office so that no two teams from any division/workgroup are ever there at the same time. Zero overlap should mean that if someone gets sick and infects others you will only lose a half, third, etc. of the people who know how to do that function.
    2. Use remote work as a routine part of every employee’s schedule to:
      • Create more social distance.
      • Ensure equipment stays updated and is operational for when it is needed.
      • Ensure personnel remember all of their log-in and access credentials and altered processes for remote work.
  • How can you protect returned workers from infection, and minimize or mitigate claims?
    1. Maintain social distancing and ensure safe behaviors
      • How far is 6’ really in an office (don’t forget the vertical dimension compared to cube wall height)?
      • In corridors
      • Elevators
      • Break rooms
      • Conference rooms
      • Between cubes
    2. Personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves, eye protection, coveralls.
      • Required or optional?
      • Who is responsible for providing the masks?
      • Is training/fitting for correct use needed?
      • How often should gloves or masks be changed?
      • Safe removal, sanitation, or disposal procedures?
      • Remember that use of masks is designed to protect others from your coughs and sneezes. So, it isn’t a choice of “If I choose not to wear one, then I accept that I might get sick,” but rather “If I don’t wear one and end up sick, then I am expected to infect 1.3 others and that could cascade through the workplace.
    3. What procedures will you require for PPE removal, hand washing, and sanitizing? (and how will you deal with the dry, cracked skin that could follow frequent cleansing)
    4. Will you require COVID-19 testing for staff that present symptoms of the virus?
    5. Will you conduct daily wellness checks (taking temperature, answering self-identification questions) and send home anyone who shows symptoms, and how will you do that? For best protection use skin surface testing thermometers not oral ones with disposable sheaths.
    6. Will staff be allowed/mandated to self-quarantine if they are potentially exposed?
    7. How do you handle employees who become symptomatic or who do/have tested positive regarding distancing and return to work?
    8. Can you train your additional duty safety officers (ADSOs) or others to safely set and monitor cleaning schedules, distancing, wellness monitoring, etc.?
    9. Do you have any staff who work as first responders (EMS, police, fire, etc.) and what precautions are you taking to reduce their exposure?
  • How will you handle multi-staff areas to avoid cross-contamination?
    1. Workers who move throughout the building or grounds
      • Groundskeepers
      • Equipment operators
      • Vehicle drivers (especially if they are carrying others)
      • Visitors from other entities such as TSLAC, State Surplus, TFC, couriers, etc.
  • How will you handle customer/visitor/public needs?
    1. Setting up safe entry (limiting numbers, distancing, and pathways)
    2. Regulating appointments or otherwise controlling traffic
    3. Facilitating access to needed services in a safe way
    4. Administering exams
    5. Interviewing job candidates
  • Mitigating staff fears
    1. Regular, honest updates, and other communications
    2. Sharing best, scientifically supported data and recommended procedures
    3. Demonstrating a high level of protectiveness toward employee health
    4. Prioritize protection of the whole workforce (don’t allow individuals to make choices that might affect more than themselves (choosing not to wear PPE or participate in wellness screenings).

Monitoring and Protecting the Workspace

  1. Who is ensuring sanitization?
    • Every day distancing
    • Break room, conference room, lobby and other common areas
    • Elevators
    • Lobbies
  2. Who should ensure the building is sanitized?
    • The responsibilities of owners, property managers, maintenance, janitorial and your staff
    • What are the cleaning schedules for both regular and deep sanitization.
      1. Elevators (buttons, panel, rails, door edges)
      2. Bathrooms
      3. Break rooms
      4. Copy rooms
      5. Conference rooms
      6. Gyms and showers
      7. Door handles
      8. Light switches
      9. Air filter changes
      10. Structural (such as sneeze guards)
      11. Vehicles (fleet, buses golf carts, forklifts)
      12. Equipment (copiers, vacuums, microwaves, coffee makers, refrigerators, etc.)
      13. Tools and machinery
      14. Other
  3. What is the sanitization procedure for areas where an employee has been found to be positive? How will you obtain necessary supplies in a depleted market?
  4. How will you handle special event celebrations such as potlucks, parties, holidays or birthdays?
  5. How will you handle deliveries, mail, documents, cash and supplies?
    • Mail and package sanitization
    • Cash handling
    • Donations received
    • Office supplies and personal items brought back in from home worksites
  6. Do you have dorms or onsite lodging? How will you sanitize these?
  7. What control can staff have over their own vulnerability and wellness?
    • Where possible accommodate individual wellness concerns and work safety preferences?
      1. Remote work and success expectations/measurements (example: the ability to complete the same amount of work at the same quality and in the same time as at the office pre-pandemic)
      2. The choice to limit their workspace only to people who are protected (ex: if masks are optional, individuals can choose not to let anyone into their area without a mask)
  8. Will you require vendors, contractors and RFP/RFQ applicants to show proof of having a safety plan that at least meets your office standards?

After-Action Analysis and Improvement Planning Guidance

An after-action review (AAR) is a way of assessing how well an exercise or actual event response met the goals and needs of the organization, and where it helped to identify gaps where additional development could make the plan more useful and easier to use in the future.

While the name implies that the assessment is completed only at the end of an event, for a long-term disruption regular mid-term ‘after’-action check ins should be conducted to ensure that valuable input isn’t lost over time.

Example: A work-around may have been cobbled together a week into the disruption that made workers less frustrated, but if their initial aggravation or reduced capabilities aren’t documented a permanent solution cannot be analyzed to improve the response during the next event.

Remember this bit of advice “While I can’t promise I can give you everything you tell me you need, I can promise I won’t be able to give you anything you don’t tell me you need.”

There are templates online that can be used to structure your after action plan, but you will need to tailor the format a bit for each individual event. Drill down to root needs or causes to ensure you find a solution that works.

When building your AAR plan goals outline:

  • What was expected to happen?
  • What actually occurred?
  • What went well and why?
  • What can be improved and how?
  • What will this cost (and how much will that investment save in money, time and experience)?
  • Your purpose and objectives
  • Your audience
  • A timeline of events
  • A list of involved parties
  • Your desired outcomes or products produced
  • Expected barriers

Sample ground rules for conducting an AAR

  • Active participation is encouraged
  • Everyone’s views have equal value
  • No blame is assigned
  • There are no right or wrong answers
  • Be open to new ideas
  • Be creative in proposing solutions to barriers
  • “Yes….and” rather than “either/or” thinking
  • Consensus should be reached where possible
  • Commitment to identifying opportunities for improvement and recommending possible improvement approaches
  • No record of the discussion will be distributed without the agreement of all participants
  • Quotes will not be attributed to individuals without permission

Conversations should be held with all personnel to their capture perspective on gaps, frustrations, successes, ideas, and potential solutions. Face-to-face communications should be used whenever possible, though surveys and other materials may also be useful. All members of staff should be invited to participate. This will allow you the best chance of understanding issues and determining solutions, and will also ensure the continuity culture within your organization stays active.

Start by reminding the team of the purpose and context of this meeting:

  • The goal is to guide and improve the work of future project teams.
  • The AAR does not grade success or failure.
  • There are always weaknesses to improve and strengths to sustain.
  • Participants should share honest observations about what actually happened (objective data) without assigning blame or praise.
  • No one has all of the information or answers. Everybody has something important to contribute.
  • Set an atmosphere of openness. If necessary, you can introduce ground rules or expectations for the session.
  • Ask for unexpected results and discuss their impact

Questions to help elicit useful information include:

  • What went well and why?
  • Given the information and knowledge we had at the time, what could have been done better?
  • Given the information and knowledge we have now, what are we gong to do differently in similar situations in the future to improve success?
  • What would your advice be to future project teams based on your experience here?

Once you have identified where improvements can be made, assign responsibility for follow up to use the subject matter expertise available to you on each topic. Schedule follow up meetings to ensure the ‘homework’ is submitted.

All of this information is then used to develop plan improvements, establish future training and exercise topics, and update the multi-year strategic plan and budget proposal.

External Resources

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

World Health Organization

Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)

Employee’s Retirement System of Texas (ERS)

For Corrections Facilities


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