Pandemic Flu planning meeting today - interesting set of issues to look at. If we're planning for 20% of staff being absent across the University, what does that mean for our department? More people working from home, more people coming in to our systems through the portal, increased load on our communication systems such as email and the web. If we cancel lectures, more pressure on our VLE as more teaching materials are put there. If we cancel exams, more on-line assessments. All this extra pressure and load, when 20% of our staff will be absent as well. This fact is often forgotten.
Will our systems cope with this load, and if not, are there any contingency plans we can put in place now? If we have only 80% of our staff present, what will our priorities be? Obviously communications systems such as email, the web, telephones and the VLE. But this will have to be at the expense of less important systems such as our research computers.
Will we be able to move staff away from these less vital systems to support the critical ones? And what will we do about some of our business systems - is it really critcal to keep the finance and purchasing systems going? Obviously payroll goes without saying! Or does it - afterall, our contingency plan for no payroll is just to pay people what they got last month.
Another area we're planning for is an increased number of incoming phone calls. If we are affected, and have a number of cases of swine (or whatever strain it is) flu we can expect many incoming phone calls - from worried parents, media, students, staff. We can set up a call centre quickly - we have the space, phone lines, software - but we need staff to answer calls, and access to linguists to deal with the many calls we can expect from overseas relatives.
If we are affected we will have to look at closing areas where students gather and infection can spread such as the Information Commons, Libraries and the Student's Union. Trigger points for all of these eventualities being looked at.
Hopefully we won't need any of these plans, but it's proving a good test of what we have in place now, and identifying ares where we still have work to do.