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Webcast: Protecting Your People and Business from the Next Pandemic


A severe pandemic could bring the world to its knees, costing up to $4 trillion worldwide and leading to severe mortality. But despite this harsh reality, the world is still not prepared, according to panelists on Marsh’s The New Reality of Risk ® webcast.

“As certain as we can be about anything in biology, there will be more pandemics and serious outbreaks,” stressed Eric Toner, senior scholar with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and a senior scientist in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Due to more efficient travel, a larger global population, and the rise of giant megacities, future events could be even worse than the notorious 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which killed up to 100 million people. Yet, Toner noted, there are no systems capable to stop a novel virus with a high fatality rate nor the ability to produce vaccines fast enough. And the US health care system would be quickly overwhelmed and struggle to cope.

A pandemic could also be a business nightmare. Organizations would need to contend with high absenteeism, lower productivity, operational disruptions, reduced customer demand, and, if their response is not deemed effective, reputational damage. Renata Elias, senior consultant in Marsh Risk Consulting’s Strategic Risk Consulting Practice, stressed the importance for organizations to have a robust crisis management plan. “There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to the threat of a pandemic, which makes it essential to continuously review your plans and make the necessary changes.”

But as Christian Ryan, leader of Marsh’s Hospitality, Sports, and Entertainment Practice, noted, many companies are not thinking about pandemics, instead expecting public health officials and other authorities to tackle the issue. “Many people consider it a major black swan event, even though it happens every few years in different parts of the world.” As recently as 2015, the Zika outbreak led to a significant loss of revenue to the hospitality industry.

Patrick Ayscue, director of epidemiology at Metabiota, an epidemic risk modeler, spoke about recent advances in modeling the potential effects of future outbreaks through machine learning and stochastic modeling catalogs. “As we get better at understanding how events have, and could, play out, we also are getting better at translating that information into business impacts.”

Texas Roadhouse had to deal with an infectious disease crisis not long ago when two employees were diagnosed with Hepatitis A. Britt Roarx, the company’s director of property and casualty risk, spoke about Texas Roadhouse’s response to the threat through robust communications with employees and the community, mandatory vaccinations, increased training and education, and escalated hygiene practices. “What you quickly realize when something like this happens is that you’re not quite prepared.”

The panelists spoke about the importance of public-private partnerships to effectively respond during a pandemic and the need for businesses to put their employees, and customers, first when a major health crisis is taking place.

Listen to a replay of the webcast.