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Each Business Pulse offers a question and answer feature between a CDC expert and a business leader. The topic is centered on a public health issue of consequence to business. In this Business Pulse, CDC’s Dr. Ali Khan discusses business continuity and preparedness with UPS’s Chris Summerrow. Khan is Assistant Surgeon General (retired) and director of the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, and Summerrow is director of Business Continuity Management and Corporate Security.

Dr KhanUPS Asks
CDC’s Dr. Ali Khan
UPS’s Chris Summerrow

What are CDC’s top preparedness priorities and how do those priorities support business continuity for the private sector?

At CDC, we are always working 24/7 to detect, prepare for and prevent the next pandemic. We exist to protect communities and save lives by controlling disease outbreaks like SARS in 2003, the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, and new emerging global threats such as H7N9 and MERS. Early detection and communication of health threats is key to protecting the public and helping the private sector take appropriate actions to protect their workforce and business operations. We are working to strengthen our engagement with all sectors of society. Government cannot operate in a vacuum, and we need to continue our outreach to private sector and non-governmental partners. We also focus on personal preparedness. Making sure your employees are prepared for an emergency will go a long way towards helping your business remain resilient. Finally, we are exploring new technologies such as Advanced Molecular Detection to enhance our ability to find and stop deadly infectious disease outbreaks that threaten every American every day.

What obstacles does CDC face in respect to staffing, funding or budget constraints that limit the ability to serve the public in health emergencies?

By every measure our nation is dramatically better prepared for public health threats than we were a decade ago. However, ongoing reductions in public health preparedness and response investments are impacting the national public health infrastructure that prepares for and responds to routine public health threats in addition to terrorist threats, novel infectious diseases, natural disasters, and biological, chemical and nuclear emergencies. Even though funding cuts have been made, CDC still has the responsibility to get the job done and protect the American people from public health threats.

What are CDC’s recommendations to protect the health and safety of global companies’ employees?

  • Make connections with first responders in your community prior to an emergency. Knowing how to work with your local health department and emergency management agencies before disaster strikes is essential. 
  • Develop and exercise emergency preparedness plans at your workplace. Use CDC guidelines, templates and resources to get started or revise your existing plans. 
  • Encourage your employees to be prepared at home

What is CDC’s process to activate the Emergency Operations Center (EOC)?

CDC’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) maintains a constant state of readiness 24/7, 365 days a year. We continually monitor global activities through a multitude of systems. We consider several factors when determining whether to activate the EOC and use the Incident Management System to conduct a response. When the EOC receives information about an incident with potential for adverse effects to the public’s health, a team of experts from across CDC convene to recommend the scope of the response. I’ll meet with this team to get their recommendations and then I’ll advise the CDC Director of the situation and provide recommendations for action, including a request for activation of the EOC. Our Director will make the final call.


What are UPS’s business continuity priorities?

UPS priorities are to ensure our business is resilient and prepared to respond and recover from any significant incident that affects our people, our customers, our shareholders and our brand. We have an obligation to do our best to provide resiliency in the supply chain for the millions of customers who depend on UPS each day. So how do we do this? It starts with risk assessments and business impact analyses. Detailed business continuity plans address the significant risks that present impacts. Critical physical and non-physical assets have been identified in every business unit across the globe. Contingencies are documented to maintain flexibility and ensure our business recovery.

What preparedness plans does UPS have in place and exercise?

We have a general business continuity plan that supports an all-hazards approach. However, UPS also has specific plans that address specific incidents; for example: asset loss, airline accidents, natural disasters, health risk (pandemic) or security disruption, to name a few. These plans are based on the Disaster Recovery Institute International (DRII) Ten Professional Practices for business continuity and have four key foundations embedded to support an effective business continuity plan: people, processes, infrastructure and training. Learn more

What emergencies have you dealt with at UPS?

UPS has been in business for more than 106 years. Due to our global presence in more than 220 countries and territories, there have been numerous emergencies that have required business continuity plans to be utilized at the local, regional, business unit or enterprise level. For our incident responses, the Incident Command System (ICS) is utilized and works extremely well. The last two UPS enterprise incidents were:

  • On August 14, UPS Airline Flight 1354 crashed on its approach to the Birmingham, Ala., airport. This tragic event required both our UPS Airline Incident Response Team (IRT) and the Corporate IRT to be convened to respond to the incident. The IRTs managed through the incident for a number of days to satisfy the wide array of issues for the crew families, airline assets, customer packages, media inquiries and government agencies. 
  • In 2012, an IT outage affected global operations. The Corporate IRT along with the IT IRT convened and responded to the disaster recovery challenges for the applications that failed. 

What kind of information from CDC is helpful to you and UPS?

We depend on CDC to inform the private sector on emerging health threats that can affect our business. Being a global company, it is imperative to understand what health concerns have the potential to impact the UPS workforce consisting of over 400,000 employees. We need to know what has the potential to disrupt our business so that we can take some alternate steps to protect our people and our business that is depended on by so many.

Where does UPS get information on health threats?

UPS obtains health threat information from CDC, the World Health Organization (WHO), The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota, International SOS (ISOS), NC4 and news broadcasts.

What is UPS currently doing for employees to help them prepare for emergencies?

September is National Preparedness month. For the last five years, we have participated in this event by conducting a drill at select locations across the United States to help facilitate what to do if there is an emergency. We have also developed a personal preparedness flyer that is distributed to our employees by local Health and Safety committees to help our workforce know how to be prepared at home.