Pandemic Flu Contingency Planning

Executive summary

Coughs and sneezes spread diseases; use your handkerchievses pleases — a refrain from the 1950s. Dispose of your tissues carefully and don't forget to wash your hands!


As a School, we are highly connected: international, interactive, and interdisciplinary. This means that we should take particular care to avoid becoming a node for infection.

At work

General infection control practices and good respiratory hand hygiene can help to reduce transmission of all viruses, including the human swine influenza. This includes:

  • covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, using a tissue when possible
  • disposing of dirty tissues promptly and carefully
  • maintaining good basic hygiene, for example washing hands frequently with soap and water to reduce the spread of the virus from your hands to face, or to other people
  • cleaning hard surfaces (e.g. door handles) frequently

We have reviewed our routines for regular cleaning of door handles, telephone handsets etc., throughout the School, and have provided gel for use at each pantry/coffee area. Suitable gel will also be provided in our computer labs, as soon as it can be procured, to allow you to wash your hands before and after using the lab.

Everyone should contribute to reducing opportunities for transmission. In addition to following this general advice, please ensure that food for common consumption is not left uncovered and, as you always should, leave shared and communal areas clean and tidy after use.

Be considerate of others, and if you are, or you appear to be, unwell please avoid contact with other people as much as possible, and always cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. Visitor offices may be available for those preferring to work in isolation.


If you are planning travel abroad, you should consult the University and Foreign Office (FCO) travel advice for the country concerned. If you are overseas and are seeking specific advice on the country in which you are located you should also consult FCO travel advice. You should be aware that your freedom of movement might be affected by restrictions established without notice, at home or abroad, and plan accordingly.

If you have visited an area where human cases of swine influenza have been identified, it is important that you are vigilant for any signs of illness in the seven days after you travel. There is no need for you to isolate yourself from other people as long as you remain well. However, you are encouraged to work from home as much as possible during this period, in order to minimise contacts.

If you develop a feverish illness accompanied by one or more of cough, sore throat, headache and muscle aches, stay at home and inform the School (ITO, IGS, or School Office). You should stay at home and contact your GP by phone or seek advice from NHS24 (8454 24 24 24), and make sure that you tell those from whom you are seeking advice about any recent travel to or through an affected area.


We are unusually highly dependent on data and communication. This is both a weakness and a strength. We anticipate that School webpages will remain available through any pandemic. So your first post of call for information relevant to the School is www.inf.ed.ac.uk. If there are any problems with the University services you should try http://informatics-emergency.blogspot.com/ as an alternative source of information.

Students should consult the student pages of the school website. If you are about to take examinations and you appear to be exhibiting 'flu-like symptoms, please:

  • Contact NHS24 or your GP for advice.
  • If they advise you to stay home, contact your DoS and the ITO via email and the ITO support form.
  • Also, contact the ITO by telephone to confirm your condition - the ITO contact number is 0131 650 9970.
  • Do not attend any examination if you are advised to stay at home. In this event, you will be able to sit the examination in the resit diet as a first sitting so there will be no penalty for missing the examination in May.
  • Please let the ITO have documentary confirmation of your condition and advice received, as soon as is practicable.

In the event of a large number of staff being affected it may be necessary to modify working patterns to ensure continuity of service. This could affect the timing of Boards of Examiners and release of examination marks. Students should check the School teaching page frequently to ensure they are aware of the current situation.

We are reviewing our arrangements for home working. In the event of a pandemic there might be prolonged failures of School and University IT systems (email, web, home directories, etc.). You are advised to keep personal backup copies of data critical to your work so that you could continue to work offsite, and if required offline, and to establish alternative means of communication (eg gmail and offsite mirrors for critical project web pages) for use if required.


The modelling of epidemics is an interesting subject to which informatics makes significant contributions, ranging from the analysis of networks (see, eg. p.17 of this presentation), to the simulation of the interactions of mobility, information and behaviour in the transmission of infection.


Swine flu - global threat raised

The World Health Organisation's emergency committee raised the pandemic threat level for swine flu tonight from phase three to phase four.

A pandemic is not inevitable. However, this action is intended as a signal that we should strengthen our preparations for flu.

The University's Pandemic Flu Contingency Plan includes a basic planning checklist for individuals and families.

Members of the school should also consider how they may continue to work from home should this become necessary.

If a pandemic develops, tactical decisions on restriction of gatherings or closures of buildings or venues may be made with little or no notice.


Contingency Plans for Pandemic Flu

Planning for the worst; hoping for the best

Earlier this year, I and a number of Informatics staff attended a "Pandemic Flu Desk Top Exercise" organised by the University's Health and Safety Department. This and similar meetings with other schools contributed to the development of the University's Pandemic Flu Contingency Plan, which was published last month.

The University will endeavour to continue to operate throughout a pandemic.

The current WHO phase of pandemic alert is 3 (as seen from Google's cache, dated 26 Apr 2009 11:15:19 GMT, of the WHO site which is currently unreachable). Raising it to level 4 “would be a very serious signal that countries ought to be dusting off pandemic plans,” according to Dr. Keiji Fukuda, deputy director general of the W.H.O.

The US government site for avian and pandemic flu information is accessible, as is the UK Department of Health Pandemic Flu site.


Appleton Tower update

Estates and buildings are receiving detailed wind forecasts for the Appleton Tower. In view of the current forecast for Thursday night, we plan to close the building from 6pm on Thursday until 8am on Friday morning.

Please plan accordingly, and ensure you have all your belongings before you leave. The ITO will announce appropriate extensions to deadlines in due course.


Appleton Tower

Not an emergency ...

... but a chance to try out this blog, created a year ago ... just in case ...

Further information will be posted here if gales are forecast.

The message below was sent today, at 2008-02-19T172745Z, to all staff and students. It is particularly relevant to those who use the Appleton Tower. Its purpose is to explain the context of maintenance work that will be carried out on the Tower over the next few weeks.

Preparatory work for maintenance of the Appleton Tower has revealed some issues relating to the external cladding which require attention. Professional structural engineering and health and safety advice has been taken, and whilst there is no immediate danger the University's senior management has decided to take a very cautious approach to dealing with the situation.
Therefore, the maintenance programme has been accelerated and will commence shortly: it will initially be conducted from inside the building, will include routine monitoring for asbestos (a necessary precaution in all such work) and will unfortunately but inevitably cause some disruption to users. As a precaution, netting will be placed on the outside of the building.
This programme will last several weeks. Whilst it is underway, the building will be closely monitored and at times of very high winds it may be necessary to limit its use or vacate it, especially the upper storeys, as a precautionary measure.
All users of the building can be assured that in normal circumstances the Appleton Tower can be used without restriction. Only if there are very high winds is it possible that there may be some risk, but the monitoring regime put in place, both in respect of the forecast wind strength and the building structure, would provide early warning enabling appropriate precautionary action to be taken, according to the circumstances.
Staff and students will be kept informed of developments, and meanwhile should go about their normal activities.

Melvyn Cornish, University Secretary


Emergency Blog

This blog is established for use in case of any future emergency that may affect our normal channels of communication.