I have been in several disaster

planning sessions recently in which it has been stressed that you need to

define who your “key personnel” are in the event of an emergency. I began to think about how organizations have

thinned themselves down over the recent years in the name of “doing more with

less” or “being lean and mean” that you have to wonder who IS NOT key


The fact of the matter is, we have

trimmed most of the human redundancy out of our organizations. Don’t think so? How many times have you been told that something can’t be done

because a particular individual is sick or on vacation? If a job function cannot be performed

because someone is gone, then perhaps we have trimmed too far.

Now before the words “cross training”

spill out of your mouth, keep in mind that many (should I say most?) of us have

enough of our OWN work to do without having to take on someone else’s work as

well in the event that they are out?

Now I am not against being a team player, and certainly cross training

is an important concept in the work place, yet I often think it is overused as

an excuse to not add additional personnel.

This wave of staff thinning in

order to stay competitive can and will show itself to be extremely self

defeating during an epidemic or pandemic.

Should the worst case predictions come true, many of our “key” personnel

won’t be around to depend on and there are few backups to be found. Compound this with our “just in time”

economy and you can imagine the dire consequences.

This is particularly true in the IT

area where staff has been thinned to the point that preventive maintenance is

wishful thinking and proactive is a thing of the past. Reactive is the operative word because there

are not enough people to go around to do all that needs to be done. Something has to give and that tends to be

preventive maintenance and customer service.

This is a particular problem for

most organizations who see “technology” and IT as their way of surviving in

disaster/pandemic situations. Data

centers work in “lights out” mode for only so long before something needs human

attention. Where will the humans be to

remedy the situation? The same goes for

outsourcing. If a pandemic truly hits

the world, do you think any SLAs with a company in another country are going to

be worth the paper it is written on?

My point to all of this is that

increased staffing (and funding) makes us better prepared to withstand

adversity just as a few pounds of extra fat can mean the difference between

life and death for a person that is ill.

Given that pandemic flu planning is becoming more and more prevalent, I

think this is a perfect opportunity to make the case that additional staff and

funding are not only appropriate but necessary to be truly prepared for such a


Lastly, please understand that

there is a difference between adequately staffed and a bureaucracy. I’m not championing for the times where

organizations had so many people that they “created” layers of work for people

to do to justify their employment. I

just believe there is a happy medium between fat and thin and most of us are

way too far on the lean side. I also

believe that this leanness has reached the point where it is bad for business

and has left us vulnerable. We live in

a society that is far more dependent on others than the last society that had

to deal with an epidemic/pandemic. Despite

our advances in medicine and technology, I believe we are more fragile as

organizations and societies. I think it

is well past time that we do some fattening up. Now if we could only get those that control the purse strings to