Small, Medium Institutions to Benefit from Pandemic Test

Small, Medium Institutions to Benefit from Pandemic Test
The number of financial institutions signed up for the upcoming nationwide pandemic exercise for the financial services industry is over 1,200 firms. The exercise, slated to run over a 3 week period beginning on September 24, will allow financial institutions to test their business continuity plans and response to a pandemic. Sponsored by the U.S. Treasury Department, the exercise will be operated by the Financial Services Sector Coordinating Council for Critical Infrastructure Protection and Homeland Security (FSSCC) and the Financial Banking Information Infrastructure Committee (FBIIC).

“In this exercise, firms will be able take this information and actually use their crisis management team, and have the team play through the exercise. Firms can involve the actual people who would likely be involved in a real event,” said Dave Engaldo, a member of the FSSCC leadership team.

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Engaldo encouraged small and medium sized institutions to participate. “The real unique thing you can test your own business’s ability to respond to a crisis. Although many companies are approaching this with an entire team of people, the way the exercise is designed it allows a broad amount of discretion. Maybe if an institution doesn’t have the man power, or only has a single individual coordinator, they would be able to take part in the test, and get a feel of the level of preparedness.”

For those mid to smaller institutions, “This is the exercise that will allow them to get a better picture of what holes exist in their plan, and will show them where they need to improve,” Engaldo explained.

The exercise would begin with a Monday morning scenario that is delivered to participants on a secure website. Crisis management teams will be given a scenario, and will see how it will impact their business. Response instructions are detailed on the secure website. Firms would be given until Wednesday to assess impact, and then be ready to show how they would respond.

The test will take into account the critical dependencies, such as telecommuting from home for an institution’s employees in response to a spreading pandemic. “There is cause for concern there, if the bandwidth in a geographic location will be there to support it,” Engaldo noted.

There will be scenarios that will include areas, such as energy, telecommunications, and transportation, “all things that are critical infrastructure supporting our sector,” he said.

The pandemic exercise planning group has formed working groups with the Center for Disease Control to get the most realistic scenarios and “authentic” feel to the exercise, Engaldo noted, “We want to take as many cues from them to make it as realistic as possible.”

The planning group’s approach to the exercise was carefully thought out. “One of the key reasons why we’re doing it over a three week period is that a pandemic is different from most other emergencies, pandemic waves could continue to occur over a period of months,” Engaldo said. A full pandemic wave isn’t portrayed fully in just a one day table top exercise, he added.

For all participants in the exercise, he predicted that “Unlike other smaller, shorter exercises, they’ll be able to determine impact on their institution, and play out their plan against the scenario.”

The mid-sized and smaller institutions would see real benefit in participating. “Some of them only have one BCP person, and that person probably does wear more than one hat, depending on the need, or the day of the week. We feel the ‘mom and pop shops’ will benefit from this exercise, and we will want to accommodate them,” he said.

While the turnaround time of three days means “They will have a tougher time playing the scenario, and getting the information they need back to the website and respond to questions by Wednesday,” Engaldo noted, “For smaller cap banks and credit unions, where else would they be able to conduct a test of their plan?"

The exercise will test medical and infrastructure response, he noted, “And this will uncover some of those questions you didn’t think of when drawing up your response plan.”

There is no cap to the number that can register and participate, although registration for the test ends on August 31. For more details and registration information: Register for FBIIC/FSSCC Pandemic Flu Exercise of 2007.

About the Author

Linda McGlasson

Linda McGlasson

Managing Editor

Linda McGlasson is a seasoned writer and editor with 20 years of experience in writing for corporations, business publications and newspapers. She has worked in the Financial Services industry for more than 12 years. Most recently Linda headed information security awareness and training and the Computer Incident Response Team for Securities Industry Automation Corporation (SIAC), a subsidiary of the NYSE Group (NYX). As part of her role she developed infosec policy, developed new awareness testing and led the company's incident response team. In the last two years she's been involved with the Financial Services Information Sharing Analysis Center (FS-ISAC), editing its quarterly member newsletter and identifying speakers for member meetings.

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