Friday, 10 February 2006

Newsletter Issue 109, February 2006

Sam Young Newsletter

Issue 109, February 2006
Hi guys,
It has to be faced. But how many of you have done any work to Plan for a Pandemic?
If you have a problem with scientific notation, you may need Formatting Large Numbers in Excel 
Don't forget, if you want to be taken off my mailing list, click here to send me a reply e-mail and I will remove your name.

Plan for a Pandemic

The dangers posed by global pandemics were once barely on business radar screens, aside from a blip in 1997 when bird flu first came to global attention in Hong Kong. Now, however, things have changed.
In 2005, the US established the “International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza,” greatly raising the profile and risk of pandemics. Business leaders are now keenly aware that the H5N1 strain of bird 'flu is a global threat, as it spreads through Asia and Turkey's poultry populations.
So far, more than 60 people have died as H5N1 has infected humans from birds. But experts are more concerned that the virus could mutate and become easily transmissible from human to human. We currently have very little natural resistance to this newly generated 'flu strain, and if it becomes transmissible from human to human, the effects would be devastating.
A global pandemic could kill millions and wreak havoc on the global economy. If H5N1 were to strike, international travel would probably be scaled back - if not halted - very quickly. The US have an executive presidential order that calls for the isolation of international visitors who MAY be carrying the flu. We could expect travel restrictions and quarantines at the minimum.
Laurie Garrett, Senior Fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations wrote in 2005 “As great as they would be, the economic consequences of travel restrictions, quarantines, and medical care would be well outstripped by productivity losses. In a typical flu season, productivity costs are ten times greater than all other flu-related costs combined. The decline in productivity is usually due directly to worker illness and absenteeism. During a pandemic, productivity losses would be even more disproportionate because entire workplaces – schools, theaters, and public facilities – would be shut down to limit human-to-human spread of the virus.”
An Australian documentary screened here recently on TV1 mentioned that the first wave of H5N1 could take nine weeks, followed by a gap of two to three months, then followed by another nine week 'flu cycle. This means that businesses could be seriously impaired for six to seven months. The Ministry of Health anticipates only eight weeks in total on their website; a mere two months. Taking a pragmatic approach, if the H5N1 'flu strikes, we may be looking at crisis conditions somewhere around three to four months.
Of course, no one can accurately forecast the human or economic costs of a pandemic. How virulent would it be? Will there be enough vaccine or antiviral drugs by the time it strikes, and how effective will they be? How quickly will it spread, and how prepared is our healthcare infrastructure?
Businesses need to develop disease policies, which includes contacts for employees so they can, if an emergency arises, find out “what they should do and whether they should report to work.” The following are critical issues:
  • Communication in general will be key during a fast-moving pandemic. Organisations need systems that allow them to quickly reach employees, especially those who are travelling. You also need to prepare a "communications tree" so that if key staff are out of action, others are briefed and ready to take over
  • Critical Resource lists, suppliers and products should be prepared. What can you not do without? What positions are critical? Do you have back ups personnel for the critical positions? How much stock do you have on hand? Can you use something else or another supplier? What if the borders are closed? Should you close as well?
  • Emergency Resource lists should be prepared, and contingency plans prepared for key functions
  • Remote. Be prepared to carry out critical functions from remote locations or with minimal staff numbers
  • Flexibility. Ensure that employment contracts and collective agreements include the level of workplace flexibility you will need to operate effectively during an outbreak. Employers may decide - or be required - to suspend business. If so, it is important to discuss employment conditions with your employees before a suspension. Remember, however, that staff who are in roles where risk is significantly increased have the right to refuse to perform work if it is likely to lead to serious harm; health workers, pharmacy staff, care givers and those in similar positions may legitimately refuse to come to work. The Department of Labour's website will give you advice on employment conditions and equipment that you need to provide
  • Staff Care
    • Disease Symptoms. Employees should be advised what symptoms to watch out for and what they should do if someone becomes ill. The Ministry of Health websites has a factsheet to download for employees at
    • Hygiene should be emphasised. Tell employees that whenever they need to wash their hands, to do so thoroughly with soap and water for at least 15 to 20 seconds each time. They should avoid close contact with anyone who may be sick, and avoid touching their eyes, nose or mouth (NB wash their hands immediately after any eye, nose or mouth contact)
    • Isolation. Tell employees to stay at home if they’re ill or if they think they have been infected
The Ministry of Economic Development in New Zealand has put together two kits - one for business and one for infrastructure, viewable at The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration have some guidelines at and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a dedicated website at The CDC has also prepared a checklist for businesses to work through to ensure their preparedness at
If a pandemic occurs, all businesses will share certain problems - such as staff not wanting to venture out in case of infection - but each will also be up against specific challenges. The more effectively you can think about and prepare for those challenges, the better you will be able to cope with a future crisis.
Formatting Large Numbers in Excel

By default, Microsoft Excel displays cells that contain a number with more than 12 characters as scientific notation. If you have ever entered a very large number into a cell, you will have noticed that Microsoft Excel takes eg "1231231231234" and displays it as "1.23123E+12".
This can be very frustrating, as no matter how broad you make the cell width, Excel still stubbornly displays your number in incomprehensible scientific notation.
But wait! There is a solution. Just follow these three steps to change how Excel displays your large numbers:
  1. Select the cells/columns/sheet that may hold large numbers
  2. Either right-click the selection and select Format Cells from the pop-up menu, or go to the Format menu and select Cells
  3. Go to the Number tab. Under Category, click "Number", then select your desired number format. Click OK
Now when you enter the values in your selected cells with more than 12 characters they will be formatted as numbers.

Murphy's Law

We quote "Murphy's Law" all the time - "what can go wrong, will go wrong". Many of us probably think it arose with a Murphy lurking somewhere in Ireland.
And we would be wrong.
According to Wikipedia, although accounts differ as to the precise origin and formulation details of Murphy's Law, those accounts are in agreement about the basic facts. What is known in the UK as Sod's Law, is in the USA named after Major Edward A Murphy Junior, a development engineer who worked in 1949 for a brief time on rocket sled experiments done by the US Air Force.
The rocket sled project at Muroc Field (later renamed Edwards Air Force Base) tested human g-force tolerances during rapid deceleration, using a rail-mounted sled and a series of hydraulic brakes at the end of the track. While initial tests used a crash test dummy strapped to the sled's seat, subsequent tests were performed by Captain John Paul Stapp.
During the tests, questions were raised about the measurement accuracy of the instrumentation for the g-forces Captain Stapp was experiencing. Edward Murphy proposed using electronic strain gauges attached to the restraining clamps of Stapp's harness to measure the force exerted on them by his rapid deceleration. Murphy's assistant wired the harness, and a trial was run using a chimpanzee. The sensors provided a zero reading, however; it became apparent that they had been installed incorrectly, with each sensor wired backwards. It was at this point that Murphy made his pronouncement.
According to George Nichols, another engineer who was present, Murphy, in frustration, blamed the failure on his assistant, saying, "If that guy has any way of making a mistake, he will". Nichols' relates that "Murphy's law" then came about through the team members' subsequent conversation, and was condensed to "If it can happen, it will happen". This was named Murphy's Law by Nichols in mockery of what he perceived was Murphy's arrogance.
Others, including Edward Murphy's surviving son Robert, deny Nichols' account. Robert Murphy claims that his father's statement was "If there's more than one way to do a job, and one of those ways will result in disaster, then somebody will do it that way."
In any case, the phrase first received public attention during a press conference in which Stapp was asked how it was that nobody had been severely injured during the rocket sled tests. Stapp replied that it was because they took Murphy's Law under consideration; he then summarised the law and said that in general, it meant that it was important to consider all the possibilities before doing a test.

TLAs for SMEs

Here are this newsletter's TLAs for you;
  • VDD, Virtual Device Driver. Microsoft OSs use virtual device drivers to handle software OS interrupts (rather than hardware interrupts) for the PCs main hardware devices (eg hard disk drive controller, keyboard, and serial and parallel ports)
  • VIM, Vendor Independent Messaging. An application program interface (API) that facilitates the exchange of e-mail and attachments among programs from different vendors, like Microsoft's MAPI (Messaging Application Program Interface).
Please feel free to email me with any TLAs that you want to get the bottom (meaning!) of.

Tips, Short+Hot Keys
In this newsletter, we are looking at shortcuts for working in tables in Word;
  • Word "Select from the current cell to the top of the column", Alt, Shift & Page Up
  • Word "Select from the current cell to the bottom of the column", Alt, Shift & Page Down
  • Word "Select from the current cell to the beginning of the row", Alt, Shift & Home
  • Word "Select from the current cell to the end of the row", Alt, Shift & End
  • Word "Go to next cell, or create a new row if in the last cell of the table", Tab
  • Word "Tab in text in a table cell", Ctrl & Tab
  • Word "Go to previous cell", Shift & Tab
  • Word "Go to first cell in a row", Alt & Home
  • Word "Go to last cell in a row", Alt & End
  • Word "Go to first cell in a column", Alt & Page Up
  • Word "Go to last cell in a column", Alt & Page Down
  • Word "Split table in row above the cursor position", Ctrl, Shift & Enter (if you're in the first table row, you will insert a blank paragraph above the table)

Hot Linx
If anyone you know is seeking some summary information of a particular region in New Zealand, then send to
Pandemic bird 'flu information for families and individuals is available from NZ's Ministry of Health at
To find out how your vehicle would cope in a crash, you can check the LTSA's safety ratings at
Apparently most international statistics are meaningless - according to a fund manager. Read all about it at,,13440-5342193,00.html

                                Catch you again soon!! E-mail your suggestions to me here

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