THE MALAYSIA'S INFLUENZA A (H1N1) CASE STUDY

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					             THE INFLUENZA A (H1N1): Malaysia Experience


1.0    INTRODUCTION


Helping organization to understand the impact of inappropriate or poorly thought out

communication during crisis is one of the most important strategic management

services can provide. According to Ruin (2002), continued exposure to crisis would

adversely erode an organization’s reputation. To have a strategic management that

deals with crisis requires a tool that has value without insulting the manager's

intelligence, has impact without belaboring the obvious, inspires action without over-

simplifying, and illustrates options and choices without teaching unnecessary, ill-

advised lessons in crisis management and communication.




Research and planning are the most essential roles in crisis management, because

they allow the organization to identify and address potentially threatening issues to

prevent and manage a crisis. Crisis preparation helps organizations anticipate,

identify and organize strategies and tactics to prevent or modify the impact of events

(Stocker, 1997). Therefore it is important to see thee crisis management as a test of

the quality and character of manager leadership in the organization as much as it is

a test of skill (Hesselbein, 2002).




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2.0   THE INFLUENZA A (H1N1) CASE STUDY


The 2009 flu outbreak in Malaysia is part of a larger flu pandemic involving a new

type of Influenza A virus subtype H1N1 A (H1N1)) virus. The first death related to the

H1N1 virus in Malaysia was reported on 23 July, 2009 and so far there have been 73

deaths reported. On July 6, 2009 Malaysia announced that it was shifting from

containment to mitigation to tackle the spread of the virus. The federal government

has declared a national health emergency in Malaysia due to the H1N1 outbreak and

is considering imposing a health curfew similar to the week-long shutdown of non-

essential services and industries in Mexico.




As of 11 August 2009, the country has over 2,253 cases, beginning with "imported"

cases from affected countries, including the United States and Australia from May

15, 2009 onwards, and the first local transmission on June 17, 2009. From August

12, the Malaysian Health Ministry said that it had discontinued officially updating the

total number of H1N1 cases within Malaysia in line with guidelines issued by the

World Health Organization.




Health Ministry Director-General Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican has advised Malaysians

returning for holidays from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and the

Philippines must quarantine themselves at home for seven days. On June 25, 2009

the Health Ministry issued a statement to all employers to allow seven days

unrecorded leave for staff placed under quarantine for A (H1N1) or going into self-

quarantine after visiting Australia, Mexico, the Philippines or the United States. The




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Health Ministry has said most imported cases of the Influenza A (H1N1) reported in

the country involved people who returned from these countries. School authorities

have been told to monitor students and staff members for symptoms of influenza A

(H1N1) such as fever and flu to avoid locally transmitted cases.




On May 15, the Health Ministry confirmed Malaysia's first case of A (H1N1) infection

of a 21 year-old male student who had arrived at the KLIA on May 13 via a Malaysia

Airlines flight from Newark and on transit at Stockholm-Arlanda Airport, followed by a

second case on May 16 of a female student in Penang who shared the same flight

as the first patient and boarded an AirAsia flight from KLIA to Penang International

Airport. In response to the country's first case of Influenza A (H1N1), the Health

Ministry urged calm among the populace as the situation is under control and the

Health Ministry has taken all the possible precautionary measures to control and

contain the disease.




This unfortunate outbreak is a test to the crisis management of the Malaysian Health

Ministry to be better prepared to protect the Malaysian population from the threat of

infectious diseases. However, it also made realizes that something important was

missing from its service delivery process within the Ministry of Health and other

related government departments and agencies in term of the communication

planning, procedure, work-coordination, and task-execution during the crisis.




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3.0      INFLUENZA A H1N1: CRISIS COMMUNICATION PLAN


Since the Nipah virus outbreak in 1999, the Health Ministry have put in place

processes to be better prepared to protect the Malaysian population from the threat

of infectious diseases. Malaysia was fully prepared during the Severe Acute

Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) situation and the episode of the H5N1 (bird flu)

outbreak in 2004.




The Malaysian government has developed a National Influenza Pandemic

Preparedness Plan (NIPPP) which serves as a time bound guide for preparedness

and response plan for influenza pandemic. It provides a policy and strategic

framework for a multi-sectoral response and contains specific advice and actions to

be undertaken by the Ministry of Health at the different levels, other governmental

departments and agencies and non governmental organizations to ensure that

resources are mobilized and used most efficiently before, during and after a

pandemic episode. But unfortunately too much responsibility are been up on the

Health    Ministry   to   deal   with   the   epidemics   and   lack   of   support   and

miscommunication between inter-government departmental and agencies can be

seen as crippling the flow of Influenza A H1N1 disease containment procedures.




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The Crisis Response Committee Management headed by the Health Ministry to

tackle this outbreak must also allowed all the others government departmental

managers within the committee to achieve collective support, prevent post-trauma

stress reactions, and to put people and national interest first. It must fulfill three

primary goals:




   1) prevention of post-traumatic stress reactions by reaching affected individuals

       and groups before they have a chance to seal over

   2) communication of crisis-related information in order to contain fears and

       control rumors

   3) fostering of confidence in management as in control of the crisis and

       demonstrating concern for people and nation welfare.




One of the first jobs of the Crisis Response Management Committee is to make

decisions about how to bring crisis-specific information to the attention of people. It is

crucial that this information come from management. There must be a coordinated

process for deciding the method of communication. This is also the time for

establishing what the facts are, what if any constraints there may be on what

information can be shared, including legal issues, issues of confidentiality, and, if

necessary, dealing with the media.




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At intervals thereafter for the duration of the intervention, the Crisis Response

Committee must meets to evaluate and to plan for the future. This information can be

quite important in the recovery and healing process and it is always important for a

work organization such as the Health Ministry and any other government agencies to

use a trauma as an opportunity for productive change. This may come in the form of

improved safety regulations and the implementation of improved intra-group of

government departments and agencies management communications.




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4.0   LEARNING FROM THE CRISIS MANAGEMENT: THE MALAYSIA
      PERSPECTIVE

Action in crisis very much reflects the general competency of an organization, in this

case the Crisis Response Committee Management headed by the Health Ministry,

as the test of crisis demonstrates how well the organization’s structure and policies

have been formed to serve the organizations goals and withstand those

circumstances which might interfere with them.




Crisis may be further defined by examining the primary types of crisis situations.

Using terminology of the Institute for Crisis Management (ICM), the two primary

manifestations are sudden crises and smoldering crises. Sudden crises are

circumstances that occur without warning and beyond an organizational control.

Consequently, sudden crises are most often situations for which the institution and

its leadership are not blamed. Examples of these may include natural disasters,

disease outbreak (like Influenza A H1N1), terrorist attacks and sabotage.




Crisis control management involves five phases which are: signal detection,

preparation and prevention, containment and damage control, business recovery,

and learning. Each phase reflects an obstacle that any given organization manager

may overcome to improve the structure and operations of the organization he or she

serves. For example, in the Influenza A H1N1 case, both the containment and

damage control, as well as the Crisis Response Committee Management headed by

the Health Ministry reputation recovery phases are concerned with returning the




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organization main business back to the previous state level it had achieved prior to

the crisis.




This, however, is a shallow management-style approach to the problem. Crisis

management would use these phases as a means of learning, the last phase of a

crisis, which generally does not apply to corporations led by corporate managers.

Learning entails reflecting on the cause and effect of the crisis and developing a

“business-anew paradigm” which restructures the institution to make it stronger on all

levels. An important aspect of this particular competency is the consideration of

specific threats that may seem counterintuitive. As such, it is essential to allow the

possibility that some vulnerabilities stem from an organization’s own leadership. Two

other competencies include making wise and rapid decisions as well as taking

courageous action.




During the crisis, managers should have the resources for a precise and complete

understanding of the nature of the organization, and therefore the ability to make

effective and innovative decisions in times of crisis. The understanding necessary for

these kinds of decisions is achieved by the final competency: learning from crisis to

effect change. It is only with this policy that organizations such as the Health Ministry

and any other government agencies will be most prepared and most effective in

crisis situations.




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In a crisis prepared organization, leadership and managers learn from each crisis. In

order to be crisis prepared, the Health Ministry should always conduct an

assessment of its readiness to meet crises. This will include both an audit of what

crises they are likely to face, as well as an evaluation of systems. Audit methods

may include survey questionnaires, focus groups, interviews with individuals from

upper and line management and specialized functions, and review of existing

policies, procedures and resources that bear on prevention and response to crisis.




On the same time, the organization must also develop policies, procedures, and

available specialists as result of audit. Being prepared means following through by

training personnel in policies and having meaningful procedures for timely and

coordinated response. Too many organizations have crisis plans “ready on the

books” but fumble when a real crisis presents itself. Here is where the involvement of

top management separates the truly crisis prepared from the crisis prone.




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5.0    STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION MANAGEMENT FOR CRISIS
       MANAGEMENT RESPONSE MODEL



During crisis management, it is up to the Crisis Response Committee Management

headed by the Health Ministry to act as the coordinator between the Malaysian

government and the public. The Strategic Communication during Crisis Management

Response Model which was developed by the Institute of Crisis Management (ICM)

in 2006 consists of three components, namely operational response, management

response and communication response.




(a) Operational Response

Operational response occurs at the point of crisis and where full information of the

crisis can be gathered. At the operational response stage, emergency response

procedure are implemented to protect employees and business operations, as well

as to access the situation so as to give the head office a clear picture of the situation.

The top management upon receiving detailed report should take necessary actions

to overcome and mitigate the situation.




(b) Management Response

As soon as the management has been informed about the occurrence of a crisis, the

crisis management team shall be activated. The team should consist of members

from the three components in the model. Doing so will ensure the uniformity of the

information and collective decision on action plan can be carried out to overcome the

crisis. An organization with no standard procedure/manual in handling crisis will


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definitely face many difficulties. The team shall advise the top management on

immediate appropriate action to be taken.




(c) Communication Response

Communicating to the public during a crisis is not easy. This challenge is normally

given to the designated spokesperson that is properly trained with public relations

and communication skills, He must be skillful enough to deal and face the media as

to ensure all questions and demands are attained. Effective and well planned crisis

communication will minimize adverse impact to the organization during a crisis.


During a crisis, strategic communication management should always proceed in

such a way it can harvest the most effective outcome from the three components

collectively in order to generate a unified response to the crisis. This will enable the

Public Relation Division of the Committee to release accurate information to the

public and avoid confusion (Bahtiar, Hassan & Saidathul: 2005).




Any organization may fall into another crisis because of its failure in dealing with the

public. This may lead to confusion, along with financial and personal losses due to

poor public image. Dealing with the crisis reflects the quality of the organization

response to a crisis and the efficiency of their decision making process.




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As such the Health Ministry plays an important role in maintaining good and cordial

relationship with the media whose audiences are the general public and those as

part of the team of different government departments and agencies in the Crisis

Response Committee should be skilled and experienced in executing the task given.

A well-organized in communication during crisis management being must be in place

to as not only advert imminent situations from becoming ugly but will also lay the

foundation to fostering good relations with the public’s critics.




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6.0      CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS MANAGEMENT: PROCEDURES AND

         GUIDELINES

In crisis management, the managers’ role is to develop and document the action

plans to facilitate communication of critical continuity information. Coordinate and

exercise with stakeholders and the media to ensure clarity during crisis

communications as follows:




      a. Establish Crisis Communications Program

      b. Develop Processes and Procedures to establish Programs for Proactive Crisis

         Communications

      c. Exercise Crisis Communications for the Program

      d. Implement Crisis Communication Plan at time of disaster event




The crisis manager should demonstrate a working knowledge in the following areas:


1)       ESTABLISH CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS PROGRAM


         (i)     Define Objectives, Scope and Program Structure


         (ii)    Develop guidelines for communications with Emergency Response

                 Operations


         (iii)   Define escalation procedures


         (iv)    Establish Communications standards and guidelines




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2)     ESTABLISHING CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS POLICIES

2.1)   Developing Processes and Procedures to establish Programs for
       Proactive Crisis Communications




(a)    Identify groups to receive communications


       (i)        Internal groups (examples include: corporate, lines of business,

                  stakeholders)


       (ii)       External groups (examples include: media, customers, vendors,

                  suppliers, public, local state and government agencies)


       (iii)      Media (examples include: print, radio, television, and internet)


       (iv)       Stakeholders (examples include: patient, people)




3)     DEVELOP COMMUNICATION PROCESSES AND PROCEDURES FOR
       EACH IDENTIFIED GROUP

       (i)        Internal Groups


               a) Identify designated communications spokesperson (HR, PR and

                  corporate communications).

               b) Identify most effective methods for communications

               c) Establish engagement criteria

               d) Ensure communications align with organizational requirements.

               e) Agree upon frequency of communications which include pre, post and

                  interim timeframe.




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(ii)       External Groups


        a) Identify designated communications spokesperson

        b) Identify most effective methods for communications

        c) Establish engagement criteria

        d) Ensure communications target specific external audiences.

        e) Agree upon frequency of communications which include pre, post and

           interim timeframe.




(iii)      Media


        a) Identify designated     communications     spokesperson      methods for

           communications

        b) Establish engagement criteria

        c) Ensure consistency in messaging throughout the organization.

        d) Agree upon frequency of communications

        e) Develop ongoing methodologies to manage media relationships.




(iv)       Stakeholders


        a) Define stakeholders as any persons or groups that have a vested

           interest in the organization and or can be affected by a crisis situation.

        b) Identify designated communications spokesperson

        c) Identify most effective methods for communications

        d) Establish engagement criteria

        e) Ensure consistency in messaging throughout the organization.




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           f) Agree upon frequency of communications which include pre, post and

               interim timeframe




4)      EXERCISE COMMUNICATIONS PLANS FOR THE PROGRAM

4.1)    Document Crisis Communications Exercise Standards and Guidelines




     a) Scope and Objectives

     b) Establish Exercise Schedule

     c) Identify Crisis Management Declaration Team




5)      DOCUMENT CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS EXERCISE REQUIREMENTS


     a) Scope and Objectives

     b) Scenarios

     c) Identify Test Type




6)      CONDUCT CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS EXERCISE AND DOCUMENT
        CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS EXERCISE RESULTS



     a) Open Issues

     b) Lessons Learned

     c) Update Communications Plans based on findings




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7)      IMPLEMENT CRISIS COMMUNICATION PLAN AT TIME OF DISASTER
        EVENT

     a) Crisis Management Declaration Team authorizes implementation

     b) Implementation begins as per processes/procedures




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7.0      ORGANIZATION CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS POLICY: DO AND DON’T


      1. All crises should be reported immediately through proper channel.



      2. Only the chief spokesperson and back-up spokespeople are authorized to

         release information to the media and to the public. All other staff, board and

         committee members should be professional and helpful to the media by

         connecting them with the spokespeople, but will neither speak to the media,

         nor provide any information.




      3. There should be one designated crisis management lead person, directing

         and coordinating all aspects of the organization’s response including

         managing the messages and the media.



      4. There should also be one designated spokesperson who is actually interacts

         with the media and other inquirers. In some cases, particularly in the event of

         a “small crisis,” the two may be the same person. In others, the jobs may be

         divided to facilitate efficient handling of the situation.




      5. "No comment" is never an acceptable response. If an answer is unknown or

         cannot be immediately answered, make note of the question, tell the inquirer

         you will get back with him/her, and do so.




      6. If the question cannot be answered due to a policy such as sharing personnel

         information, let the inquirer know that.


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7. Personnel matters are to remain confidential.



8. When possible, responses should be proactive, responsive, and action-

   oriented.




9. Recognizes the importance of media relation to public trust. In times of crisis,

   maintaining effective media relationships will be particularly critical in

   bolstering public confidence in the sector as a whole.




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8.0   CONCLUSION


Crisis communication in organization always fall into two groups which is either crisis

prone or crisis prepared. Managers of crisis prone organization deny the inevitability

of crisis and its increasing presence as a part of workplace life. Consequently, these

organizations lack the policies, procedures and resources that they will need to

respond to crisis effectively and in a timely fashion. Therefore any organization that

deals with crisis management must always work and move as one team which is a

crucial component of crisis readiness. Crisis response requires teamwork, and it

requires an ongoing process of consultation, information collecting, and decision-

making.




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REFERENCE




Bahtiar, M., Hassan, A.B. and Saidathul, N.M.T. (2005). Perhubungan Awam:
Amalan dan Strategi. Singapore: Thomson Learning.




Barton L., (2004) Crisis Management, Master The Skills To Prevent Disasters.
Boston: Harvard Business School Press




Bryman A., Bell E. (2007) Business Research Methods, UK: Oxford University Press




Erika Hayes James and Lynn Perry Wooten, Leadership as (Un)usual: How to
Display Competence In Times of Crisis In Organizational Dynamics. Elsevier, Inc,
Vol. 34, No.2, pp. 141-152, 2005




Hatch M.J., Schultz M., (2004) Organizational Identity: A Reader. New York: Oxford
University Press




Hesselbein, F. (2002, Fall). Crisis management: a leadership imperative. Leader to
Leader         (online).       Retrieved         on       August13,         2009,
http://www.pfdf.org/leaderboos/L2L/fall2002/fh.html




Ray, S.J. (1999). Strategic Communication in Crisis Management: Lessons from
the Airline Industry. Westport, CT: Quorum Books.




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Ruin, J.E. (2002). Managing Crisis in Organizations. NY: Vinlin Press




Seeger, M., Sellnow, T., and Ulmer, R. (2003). Communication and Organizational
Crisis. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.




Stocker, K. P., (1997). “A strategic approach to crisis management”. In Caywood,
C.L. (Ed.), The Handbook Of Strategic Public Relations And Integrated
Communications. New York: McGraw Hill, pp. 189 – 203.




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DOCUMENT INFO
Description: The 2009 flu outbreak in Malaysia is part of a larger flu pandemic involving a new type of Influenza A virus subtype H1N1 A (H1N1)) virus. The first death related to the H1N1 virus in Malaysia was reported on 23 July, 2009 and so far there have been 73 deaths reported. On July 6, 2009 Malaysia announced that it was shifting from containment to mitigation to tackle the spread of the virus. The federal government has declared a national health emergency in Malaysia due to the H1N1 outbreak and is considering imposing a health curfew similar to the week-long shutdown of non-essential services and industries in Mexico.