Some of our profession spend a great deal of effort making contingency plans that cover just about every conceivable scenario. In fact in some cases I have noticed it as an obsession. The first tell tale signs are a seemingly never ending barrage of “but what if?” questions. Admittedly, sometimes it can be difficult to know exactly where to draw the line.

I like to make a simple matrix, high chance/ high impact to low chance / low impact and then to focus on the areas that demand the most attention. The important point of the exercise is to make sure that you rely on the input of a wide group of people. I recommend short brainstorming sessions, beginning with everyone writing down their top ten major concerns on a piece of paper and then followed by a comparative discussion until you have enough input to build the matrix and to construct a well thought through contingency plan.

However with the recent outbreak of Swine Flu it is not always easy to recognize the logic. It is hard to work out what is hysteria and what is ‘reasonable concern’. Apparently this week the guests of the Metro Park hotel in Hong Kong were quarantined in their hotel because a few days earlier the hotel received a visitor from Mexico that had subsequently fallen ill.

The British government has been printing leaflets to be delivered into every letterbox in the land, sharing pearls of wisdom such as(and I quote):

When you cough or sneeze it is especially important to follow the rules of good hygiene to prevent the spread of germs:
• Always carry tissues.
• Use clean tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze.
• Bin the tissues after one use.
• Wash your hands with soap and hot water or a sanitiser gel often.

But the one I liked best was on the BBC website:
• If you have flu symptoms and recently visited affected areas of Mexico, seek medical advice

Some people use the term ‘mitigation strategy’ while others call it a contingency plan – to be honest I don’t know the difference. What I do know is that the guests of the Metro Park have plenty of time to debate the subject, once they have completed the filling in their travel insurance forms, in the vain hope of receiving some kind of compensation.

I have always wanted to visit Hong Kong. I have flown over it a few times but never had the time to land. I am just imagining what it must be like to have finally arrived in your hotel, only to be told that you can not leave it until your holiday is over!

One last piece of great advice from the Kaikora District Council and the University of Otago, New Zealand:
‘if you have to go out in public keep at least one metre away from other people and avoid making physical contact.’

H.