Companies warned about bird flu contingency planning

A report just issued by Risk Management Solutions (RMS), a US-based business risk analysis firm, says that most companies may be underestimating their H5N1 risk if they plan for a worst-case scenario based on the 1918 influenza pandemic.

Cheerful stuff eh? The firm says that its research suggests that more severe pandemics than the 1918 outbreak are possible. Its computer models, in fact, suggest that a possible pandemic will be 20 per cent worse than that seen in 1918.

I'll leave you to do you own research on the history of the 1918 bird flu pandemic, but I know that HSBC has drawn up business continuity plans on the assumption that up to half of its staff could fall prey to bird flu at its peak.

The bank says it has made preparations for staff that might have to care for family members to work from home using video link and teleconference facilities.

That's a lot of IT resources. It could explain why the workmen have been busy outside of HSBC's various UK headquarters in my home town of Sheffield this last few months.

Other research from Aviva's Australian division, meanwhile, suggests that 52 per cent of British firms have formed a crisis management team to address pandemic preparedness planning.

Funny how nothing about bird flu has been in the media headlines in the UK for a while. The government wouldn't be trying to keep the subject quiet, now would it?...