London's financial district is to conduct a market-wide business continuity test to assess firms' readiness for dealing with an avian flu pandemic.
The UK's tripartite financial authorities - HM Treasury, The Bank of England and Financial Services Authority - will run the event from 13 October to 24 November. Over 60 organisations from the financial services sector are expected to participate in the six-week exercise.
Rather than simulating a "live fire" event, the aim of this year's business continuity exercise is to create over an extended time-frame, a rolling exchange of information, decisions and responses against an evolving scenario.
The authorities says the overall objective of the exercise 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 drill will require participants to review the impact of reduced staffing levels on their own business operations, as well as the impact of disruption to key services such as transport, power, telecoms.
During the exercise, participants will receive regular information regarding the severity of the pandemic, its effect on them and on the wider economy. Participants will then review and assess the impact of the information before communicating decisions to the authorities. In some cases the scenario may evolve in line with participant responses.
Earlier this year, US and UK regulators urged financial institutions to devise contingency plans for dealing with a possible widespread outbreak of avian flu.
Some banks in Europe, such as HSBC, have been working on plans to deal with a possible pandemic. Furthermore, IBM said in June that it was introducing a consulting service designed to help businesses plan for a bird flu outbreak.