It pays to be ready, if and when disaster strikes. Scientists believe that the H5N1 bird flu virus, or some other form of flu, will eventually mutate so that it can easily be passed from human to human and become a pandemic. Researchers announced last week that the H5N1 flu virus has mutated in a way to make it possible to infect people more easily by allowing it to grow in the upper respiratory tract of humans. Realizing the threat, President Bush directed various government agencies to upgrade their planning for pandemic outbreaks in May of last year. In response, 2,700 financial institutions are taking part in a three-week long simulation that began Sept. 24 to test their response to a potential pandemic. The financial institutions are running this scenario to be better prepared to deal with the situation if it actually happens and to think through steps they should implement to keep their business running. You should be making the same preparations on a personal finance level. Here are a number of questions that you should be asking yourself and steps you should be taking: Have you taken care of the basics? If you don't already have a financial emergency kit in place, preparing one is the first step you should take. While a pandemic is different from a natural disaster, both have areas of financial preparation which overlap and you might as well be prepared for all emergencies.