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Swine Flu for the Birds

It wasn't too long ago that the world was preoccupied by the threat of avian flu. I would find countless emails in my inbox discussing what financial services firms would need to do in the event of a global pandemic. Contingency plans involving remote working and shoring up banks' communications systems were usually among the top recommendations of the "experts."

It wasn't too long ago that the world was preoccupied by the threat of avian flu. I would find countless emails in my inbox discussing what financial services firms would need to do in the event of a global pandemic. Contingency plans involving remote working and shoring up banks' communications systems were usually among the top recommendations of the "experts."Now, the big news is swine flu. First, it hit Mexico. Then it spread to California. But then, when I heard several students at St. Francis Prep High School came down with it (that's right where I grew up!), things started to hit home. I'm not in panic mode yet. However, I will confess I am actually considering not taking the subway until this whole thing blow over. A little walking from Penn Station to the office couldn't hurt. But, really, is that going to keep me insolated from people who don't cover their mouths when they sneeze and then touch surfaces with their filthy hands? And I'm sure the commuter railroad I take is probably just as bad.

Still, it looks like swine flu is becoming the latest "craze" for the media to latch on to. We'll no doubt be inundated by reports on the disease for weeks to come. However, it is a real threat that the Obama administration is taking seriously. Plus, it has already put a damper of the financial markets. Can we really take much more damage as we try to pull ourselves out of this economic downturn?

James Kerr, with Cromwell, Conn.-based Best Practices Enterprise Group, recalls an article he wrote in 2007 for Government Technology magazine on planning for bird flu. His suggestions can just as easily translate for dealing with swine flu. One particular point he made drove home the importance of banks' technology people:

Remember, as senior IT executives who are often responsible for business continuity planning and disaster recovery, it is our obligation to our agency's staff and the public they serve to prepare and plan for the inevitable. It is our obligation to develop a business continuity plan in the age of a looming flu pandemic.

I am curious to hear whether your banks have discussed the possible impact of swine flu on operations and if contingency plans have been formulated. Feel free to email me or comment below!

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