City of London to have bird flu drill
The City of London financial services sector will next month test out how it would cope with a bird flu pandemic in an exercise run by finance industry regulators.
The Bank of England, the Financial Services Authority and the Treasury will organise the bird flu simulation event, which will run from October 13 to November 24.
More than 60 organisations from the financial services industry have been asked to take part.
These three bodies cooperate on business continuity planning for incidents that could cause major disruptions to the City of London financial services industry, one of the world's biggest financial centres and home to some of the world's biggest banks.
The simulation of a major crisis has become an annual event.
Last November, the Bank of England, the Treasury and the FSA -- known as the Tripartite Authorities -- carried out the world's biggest ever business endurance exercise to test the financial sector's ability to deal effectively with a major operational disruption.
This involved about 80 firms, including banks, brokerages and insurers, as well as the financial authorities and the police.
This time it is bird flu, which will be run as an "evolving scenario."
"The overall objective for the authorities is to improve their own and the sector's preparedness by providing an opportunity to review, test and update plans for managing a pandemic threat," the three authorities said on their website -- UK Financial Sector Continuity.
Major banks in the City of London have been gearing up to cope with a potential bird flu epidemic for months now.
Last year, for example, Citigroup, the world's biggest bank, set up an avian flu task force, combining business continuity, health services and security services.
During next month's exercise banks and financial services firms will receive regular updates on the severity of the pandemic, its effect on them and on the wider economy.
Banks will review if contingency plans they have made can actually cope in the face of rampant bird flu which will mean reduced staffing levels, disruption to transport, power and telecoms.
The authorities will publish a report on the exercise after it is completed.
The Bank of England, the Treasury and the FSA's business continuity systems were put into action last year during the suicide bomb attacks on London's transport system in July.
The three activated a secret Internet chatroom, which was set up in the wake of the September 11 bombings of the World Trade Centre in New York. This aims to keep lines of communication open between banks and the authorities during a crisis.
In July this year, the Bank of England also ran a seminar to examine how the $2 trillion (1.06 trillion pounds) a day foreign exchange market would cope with a sustained outage of the global currency payments system due to terror attacks or other disruptions.
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