But 'that's not necessarily true,' Robert said. His company is taking into consideration the distances between the homes of critical workers and the central offices of their broadband providers. One goal of the ongoing research is to help company officials decide how many more laptops and VPNs need to be deployed, he said.
Separately, Robert's company has a chief medical officer who provides daily updates on the status of the avian flu virus and other matters.
Robert doesn't care whether the odds of a pandemic occurring are low or high. 'Business continuity planners don't look at cause so much as effect,' he said. 'So whether there's a fire or a bomb or a pandemic, [if] the building is out, the workforce has to be disseminated.' The biggest difference with a pandemic might be that the period of disruption would be elongated, he added.
However, unlike some other types of disasters, a pandemic could produce 'things that we did not predict, which can combine to cause problems we didn't imagine,' Desouza said. 'IT managers are so used to engineering precise solutions for specific problems, such as if a network is down. But these emergent effects could really impact a pandemic crisis.'