NCASI Update on COVID-19 Response
The unofficial start of summer arrived last week, and the world is dramatically different than it was at this time last year. While some things remain the same, others have required all of us to adapt to meet the changing needs of our industry in this ‘new normal’. Many of you are part of an essential industry and must maintain business as usual with increased prevention and protection protocols, while others are modifying operations to accommodate for working-from-home and social distancing. Even though NCASI has been in a ‘work from home’ status, we have remained available to assist with your ongoing and emerging needs. We appreciate the partnership we have with each one of our Members as we weather this storm together.
Last month we held a series of listening sessions to check in with our Membership to better understand your needs and assess whether our current Technical Studies Program and deliverables were still the right direction. We heard loud and clear to stay the course. Click here for a summary of the results of those listening sessions including your suggestions and our planned response.
One of the pivots we have made based on your feedback is to our annual regional meetings. We know you are not able to travel, so we have transitioned our in-person regional meetings to a single virtual conference. Over the past month, a team has spent time researching and demoing a variety of virtual event platforms to ensure we meet your event priorities such as networking and high-quality access to information and experts. We know this will be a different experience, but we have faith that this event will exceed your expectations. We are planning the event for early October 2020 and will keep you informed as plans progress.
At this time, we have begun the process of bringing a limited number of NCASI staff back to the lab and into the field. We have developed procedures to allow for our planned fieldwork to proceed in addition to getting our labs back up and running. We are executing on our Technical Studies Program for you while protecting the health and welfare of staff.
As a reminder, we continue to update our COVID-19 webpage when new information, which is pertinent to the forest products sector, becomes available. The research shared on this website continues to be thoroughly vetted by our technical staff to ensure it is accurate and unbiased.
It is my hope that you continue to stay safe. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you need us. NCASI is here for you.
Dirk Krouskop, NCASI President
April 10, 2020
What a month! When I last wrote to you it was March 13th and we were just beginning to implement our safeguards around COVID-19 while promising to continue providing the high-quality resources and technical assistance you depend on. We have continued our technical studies programming as close to normal as possible and continue to provide the highest level of Member support that you rely on NCASI to provide.
We have also added a webpage dedicated to the most current, and reliable research and best practices on COVID-19 related to the forest products sector. The research shared on our website is being thoroughly vetted by our technical staff before we post it to ensure we are sharing the unbiased, accurate science you expect from us. Since March 20th we have updated the page and its information seven times to ensure we are responding to your most pressing concerns and needs. We will continue to add and update information as it becomes available.
An issue that has developed over the past few weeks are security and privacy concerns with the Zoom platform. As you know, we rely heavily on video conferencing to bring you webinars and host meetings. Having this capability is even more critical at this time and NCASI is proud to be among the early adopters of this technology. We want to assure all of our Members that, in true NCASI fashion, we have been carefully researching the issues and exploring alternatives to Zoom. While we do this, we feel that the following makes our Zoom account secure for our staff and our Members:
- NCASI has always used the professional version of Zoom, not the free version available to the public at large where we understand most of the problems have occurred
- Each of our meetings has an individually assigned meeting ID that includes password protection
- The dates and times of our meetings are not made known to the general public, but are only shared with our members-only contacts, or by private invitation
- Nearly all the Zoom events we hold for our members are Zoom webinars, which require participant registration and are much less susceptible to intrusion by outsiders.
We have taken additional steps around encryption, visibility, and file saving to lock down our system even more. We have been in touch with our Zoom account representative who has provided us with an extensive list of updates and fixes to the platform which address the issues and concerns that have arisen during the recent exponential growth of their platform. We know this is an evolving situation but based on our external research and our conversation with Zoom, we are quite confident Zoom is well on their way toward addressing the issues that have recently surfaced. We will continue to carefully monitor this situation and implement all improved security features while continuing our search for an alternative platform that meets our and most importantly our members’ needs and requirements. We are on a fast track to complete this task, but this will require several weeks.
In closing, over the past month we all have had to adapt to a new normal, even if temporary. We keep hearing that we are all in this together, and indeed we are. We have had to rely on each other more and integrate technology more than ever. What we have found is that we have not become more distant, but actually more engaged with each other. Our staff is reporting more conversations with you, our Members. We not only welcome this ongoing dialogue, but we are also exploring other ways to provide you with a forum to continue the conversation and most importantly share issues and concerns and solutions over the coming days and weeks. Know we are here for you as a source of information and support during these difficult times.
Please continue to visit our website for updates on COVID-19 as it affects our sector as well read the many publications we continue to produce or explore upcoming webinars and meetings. As always, you can call on us. Our staff is here and working hard for you.
Stay safe. Stay well. I have faith that together, we will get through this stronger than ever.
Dirk Krouskop, NCASI President