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Failure to communicate is no laughing matter


THE SIGNATURE LINE from "Cool Hand Luke"--"What we've got failure to communicate"--can draw a bemused chuckle under most circumstances. But there's nothing funny about failed communications applied to workplace emergency plans.

Consider a new Harvard School of Public Health study about preparations for an influenza pandemic. The study found that only 19% of workers surveyed said their workplace had a plan for dealing with a pandemic while 63% said there was no plan in place, and the remaining 18% of the roughly 1,100 workers surveyed said they did not know if there was a plan or not.

And a survey undertaken for Business Insurance by Greenwich Associates found that while an overwhelming majority of employers felt that they had at least partially developed emergency plans in place, their insurers and brokers took a far more skeptical view of just how well those plans were developed. And fewer than half of the employers said they had communicated their plans to employees--a far cry from the recommendations of 94% of the insurers who urged that employees be made aware of the plan (BI, Oct. 9).

While we feel the Harvard study's finding that nearly two-thirds of workers say their employer doesn't have a pandemic flu plan to be more than a little disturbing, we find the fact that nearly one-fifth don't even know whether there's a plan to be troubling as well. Having an emergency plan in place is critical to emergency recovery. Failing to communicate the specifics of the plan renders it worthless--a failure to communicate that's no laughing matter.