New York, NY, March 22, 2005 â Warning that the United States, Canada and Europe are in the midst of a media frenzy over the spread of avian flu, Alex Tabb, director of the crisis and continuity services practice at TABB Group, explained in his keynote speech yesterday to an overflowing audience at a business continuity and corporate security industry conference, that âmanaged transition, based on the avian flu preparedness plan used by the World Health Organization (WHO), can mitigate the risks of a pandemic flu outbreak if or when it does strike.â
âWe know avian fluâs out there,â said Tabb. âWe donât know if or when it will strike the United States, but like Katrina, the Asian tsunami and the London and Madrid bomb blasts, the potential economic impact that the pandemic can wreak on retail and investment banking, securities and insurance firms in the US and Europe would be long lasting. What we need to do right now is understand what a pandemic is, what it isnât and get a better grasp of the essential issues.â
While the media have focused their recent attention on the spread of the H5N1 avian flu strain from Asia to the Middle East, Tabb recommends using a managed transition approach to planning. âRetail banks, insurance carriers, brokers and trading firms need to use the unique nature of a pandemic to plan correctly. We are looking at a six-phase approach linked to the WHO global pandemic preparedness plan as triggers to initiate the correct actions to limit the economic impact on customers as well as shareholders.â
To initiate planning efforts across the enterprise, Tabb explained that phase three, animal-to-animal spread with limited animal to human spread, already a reality, should trigger collection of data and creating plans. Phase four, small clusters of human-to-human spread, should lead to an increase in technology provisioning, testing of existing assumptions, reworking of plans based on testing and ensuring ample medical precautions are in place. Phase five, large clusters of human-to-human spread, should signal firms to begin the transition from a normal work environment to a âsocially-distanced work environment. At phase six, pandemic, the completed transition to the socially distanced work environment should be fully in place.
Noting that the financial services industry is growing more complex, Tabb emphasized that business continuity planning âmust keep upâ and that C-level executives should not shy away from the basics, that âa strong foundation based on solid pragmatic planning will go a long way to ensure continuity. Moreover, be flexible as there are no set answers, only diminishing budgets. If you arenât prepared to do more with less, do so at your own peril.â