Schools in general can be a hot bed for pandemics, warns a leading insurer. The Educator investigates how you can prepare – and protect – your school.
However, the threat of a pandemic reaching the nation’s schools is real, American International Group’s (AIG) Asia Pacific Regional Head of Casualty, Penny Seach told The Educator.
So how prepared are the nation’s schools to confront this possibility?
“Pandemics are unpredictable, borderless and can be transmitted quickly,” Seach said.
“Even though Australia has strong border controls and government frameworks in place to manage and mitigate pandemics, the threat of one spreading throughout the country is real, especially with the country’s high travel and tourism numbers.”
Seach said that last year alone Australia had more than 7.2 million tourist arrivals and that heightening the risk through tourism is Australia’s close proximity to Asia, a region with “a well-documented history of pandemics”.
“Australia has a large body of international students that regularly travel between Australia and their home countries. Coming into contact with a large number of people regularly on their return raises the potential of exposure,” Seach said.
And it’s not just students travelling in and out of Australia, she cautioned.
“Schools in general can be a hot bed for pandemics with hundreds of people in close contact in classrooms and assembly halls on a daily basis,” Seach said.
“For example, the 2009 influenza pandemic, which in Australia saw 132 deaths and more than 4,122 hospitalisations, included infections originating from schools in Victoria and New South Wales.”
In order to minimise the risk of a pandemic, Seach said that first and foremost, principals need to have a clear understanding of the national pandemic preparedness frameworks and guidelines in place.
“It is important that principals understand their roles in the case of a pandemic and are able to adapt and implement the guidelines according to the specific needs of the school,” Seach explained.
“That being said, strong frameworks and procedures are nothing without proper execution. Principals need to lead staff to ensure pandemic preparedness plans are kept up-to-date and that staff are well and regularly trained in executing the plans.”
Seach added that it is prudent for school leaders to go through this process to partner with industry experts to test, review and seek feedback on their plans to help principals mitigate the potential risks.
“In working with their insurance partners for example, schools can gain access to knowledge transfer and sharing on the risks and exposures that the insurance partner sees and manages in the industry every day.”