If you’re not prepared for a cluster, you’re not ready to return.

Cluster Management is part of our new normal. In the past seven days, organisations across both Queensland and Victoria have been working to contain the spread of new active cases of COVID-19. Recent cases include

Whilst each organisation has been a victim to the situation, the very nature of the event has led to undeniable media attention and a spotlight on the organisation’s response and ongoing management. It’s reported that Worksafe was also activated to undertake an investigation at Cedar Meats.

With restrictions starting to ease across all states, cluster management is now part of our new normal. As organisations continue to manage their operations, and in some instances, prepare to trickle feed staff back to work (many workers in essential operations never left), the ability to act with speed and decisiveness in a cluster outbreak becomes paramount.If you’re not prepared for a cluster, you’re not ready to return.

Cluster Management is part of our new normal. In the past seven days, organisations across both Queensland and Victoria have been working to contain the spread of new active cases of COVID-19. Recent cases include

Whilst each organisation has been a victim to the situation, the very nature of the event has led to undeniable media attention and a spotlight on the organisation’s response and ongoing management. It’s reported that Worksafe was also activated to undertake an investigation at Cedar Meats.

With restrictions starting to ease across all states, cluster management is now part of our new normal. As organisations continue to manage their operations, and in some instances, prepare to trickle feed staff back to work (many workers in essential operations never left), the ability to act with speed and decisiveness in a cluster outbreak becomes paramount.

To succesfully manage a COVID-19 cluster, five key considerations should be taken on board:

1. People
COVID-19 is a health crisis. The health and safety of your people and the people they’re in contact with is paramount. Having a well-considered response plan aligned to the advice of the state and federal health authorities is critical. Take time to review all the latest information available from Safe Work Australia and consider the processes that each staff member will need to work through for testing and isolation. Still in doubt? Seek advice from a Work Health and Safety professional for further guidance. Leave and well-being support (EAP) also need to be factored into your plan.

2. Rapid Communications
COVID-19 can be spread to hundreds of people in a single day, elevating the criticality of rapid communications. In a situation where staff might not work their standard hours due to partial stand down, shift work or other, email won’t cut it. Being able to mass communicate to your staff via SMS becomes critical. Your Communications, Health and Safety or Security team should be familiar with a critical event management / communications platform like CQ to get pre-scripted messages to staff, for guidance in minutes. Contact data integrity is a common mis-step in this strategy. Ensure your platform is linked via API to your corporate directory to ensure data is accurate.

3. Operations will be disrupted
A cluster is going to disrupt your new BAU operations. Your leadership team will be working around the clock on response and your operational teams may in many instances be in quarantine. Workshopping the impact to critical functions ahead of a cluster outbreak will help your teams focus its limited resources on recovering the most critical of tasks. The critical function data available in your Business Continuity Plan will be key. COVID-19 has changed many of our organisation’s operating rhythms, so ensure this information is current.

4. Brand & Reputation Management
Your organisation’s brand is likely to be in the spotlight for some time due to the incubation period of COVID-19. Every time a new infection is confirmed, your brand name will be mentioned. A heightened level of scrutiny will be placed on your leadership team’s actions both before and during the cluster outbreak. In an environment when your risk tolerance has likely dropped, every part of your response to the event needs to be on point. Consider who your primary and secondary spokespeople will be and ensure they’ve been media trained. Mapping your stakeholders and developing a tailored and genuine narrative group for each is important. Getting statement templates prepared now (with room to tailor the finer details later), will speed up your ability to respond.

5. Recording all key facts and actions
Keeping a clear and time stamped record on all facts and actions is going to be critical when hindsight is applied. This information will very likely be requested by regulators, so documenting your response is absolutely key. It will also provide useful information for a debrief once the event has been controlled and/or closed. Again, Critical Event platforms like CQ will simplify this task by automatically recording your response, as you progress forward.

It’s easy to become overly confident with your organisation’s ability to respond to a cluster in our current environment. After all, didn’t we all just go through the initial response phase to COVID-19? Managing a cluster when your brand is front page news in every outlet is a very different situation.

Taking time to consider and workshop your cluster management response now, will mitigate the impact when it happens.

By Marcus Vaughan
Chief Growth Officer, Catalyst Technologies