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Published: Wednesday, 11/23/2005

Few firms in area have plans for a crisis

BY HOMER BRICKEY
BLADE SENIOR BUSINESS WRITER

As the world seems worried that avian flu will become a pandemic and bring commerce to its knees, businesses in the Toledo area appear unconcerned.

Many don't have "disaster plans" in effect.

Some owners and managers say they've just been too busy dealing with other problems. Others are waiting for better information about the bug.

Large corporations may have flu-disaster plans, but they're not within easy reach of everyone. Spokesmen for half a dozen multinational firms could not immediately locate any flu plans, although some said a major flu outbreak would be covered in their general "crisis plans."

"Do I have a 'book' to follow?" asked Gus Mancy, a partner in Mancy's Restaurants Inc., which operates four restaurants in the Toledo area. "The 'book' is in my head. We've dealt with crises before."

Donald Reinbolt, who heads two firms in Perrysburg Township, said he has not taken a major flu problem seriously yet. "Unfortunately that's symptomatic of business today. There are so many demands and so little time, so we're not able to do as much forward planning as we need to," said the operator of Wilcox Awning & Sign and its sister firm, Toledo Tarp Service Inc.

"If everybody calls in sick, we're just in the soup," he said.

Dana Corp. facilities typically have a crisis plan in place, and the company is adding avian flu provisions, which could include travel restrictions, changes in meeting sites, and employee-education programs, said Todd Romain, a spokesman for the multinational Toledo auto parts supplier.

Owens-Illinois Inc., another Toledo firm, has a general crisis plan covering plant explosions and other problems, which could include bird flu. "We would follow that process," said spokesman Carol Gee. "Crisis is crisis, whether it's bird flu or whatever."

O-I and Dana are among many area firms offering free flu shots to their employees at work sites.

A number of other companies have arranged for their employees to get shots at medical facilities. However, those vaccinations are for the traditional strains of flu and are not considered protection against avian flu.

Nationally, many large companies are working on a variety of flu-disaster plans. Among them are Microsoft Corp., which will include telecommuting options for many of its 63,000 workers globally; Cisco Systems Inc., which asked 8,000 Asian workers to update passports in case of evacuation; and the Marriott hotel chain, which is stocking respiratory masks for employees as well as guests at its Asian facilities.

The Employers' Association, a Sylvania organization representing about 650 area companies, is putting together a flu-planning program for human-resources managers in January.

Contact Homer Brickey at:

homerbrickey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6129.



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