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WASHINGTON-NCUA, along with the federal bank and thrift regulatory agencies as well as the Federal Trade Commission, have issued an interagency advisory to increase awareness of the threat of a pandemic flu outbreak. The advisory discusses the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza and outlines the roles and responsibilities of financial institutions in this scenario. It advises financial institutions and their service providers to consider this and similar threats in their event response and contingency strategies. The White House issued its national strategy in November, which discusses the potential impact of a pandemic, such as avian flu outbreak currently mostly contained to Asia. “It is unknown if an avian virus will result in a human pandemic,” the advisory read. “The widespread nature of this virus in birds and the possibility that it may mutate over time raise concerns that it will become transmissible among humans, with potentially devastating consequences.” Critical infrastructure private entities, such as financial services providers, offer crucial services and affect the majority of the population and thus should be engaged in all preparedness and response activities for a pandemic, the advisory said. “Critical infrastructure entities also must be engaged in planning for a pandemic because of our society’s dependence upon their services. Both the private sector and critical infrastructure entities represent essential underpinnings for the functioning of American society,” it read. Responsibilities of the U.S. private sector and critical infrastructure entities include the following: * Establishing an ethic of infection control in the workplace to include options for working off-site while ill, systems to reduce infection transmission, and worker education. * Establishing contingency systems to maintain delivery of essential goods and services during times of significant and sustained worker absenteeism. * Where possible, establishing mechanisms to allow workers to provide services from home if public health officials advise against non-essential travel outside the home. * Establishing partnerships with other members of the sector to provide mutual support and maintenance of essential services during a pandemic. “Credit unions with a global presence and those considered critical to the financial system may have greater preparation and response challenges than those of other credit unions. However, a pandemic event is a potential threat to any credit union regardless of size and location,” NCUA’s advisory warned. The entire National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza and other details are available at www.pandemicflu.gov. -

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