Test Your Pandemic Plan in National Exercise

Test Your Pandemic Plan in National Exercise

The planned pandemic exercise for the financial services sector already has more than 650 institutions signed up since registration opened on July 20. Sponsored by the U.S. Treasury Department, the national pandemic exercise scheduled for September 24 through October 12 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).

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“We have no limit to the number of institutions that may sign up, the only restriction to registration is the deadline for registration, August 31,” explained Dave Engaldo, a member of the FSSCC leadership team. Engaldo encouraged institutions of any size to register for the exercise. (See related story: Register for FBIIC/FSSCC Pandemic Flu Exercise of 2007 Register for FBIIC/FSSCC Pandemic Flu Exercise of 2007).

“As I talk to people, everyone is asking, ‘When and what is the likelihood that this pandemic event will happen?’ Unfortunately, no one can answer that definitively, but clearly based on what has happened with pandemics in the past few centuries, we know it is going to happen, we just don’t know when it’s going to happen,” Engaldo said. Engaldo is also first vice president of Business Continuity at the Options Clearing Corporation.

Based on the information being presented by the Centers for Disease Control and other government agencies studying the Avian Flu, “We think the H51 virus is a good candidate for the pandemic. The potential downside is such that we just can’t be prepared for it,” Engaldo noted.

Prior to this exercise, he explained there has been a lot of activity, “mostly at the individual company level. But we felt that we needed to do something on a sector-wide exercise.” This will be the first exercise conducted in the United States to target the entire financial services sector. It will involve financial services organizations representing all functions within the sector and every geographic region within the country.

It is also the first exercise whose primary focus will be to test participating firms’ pandemic plans against a scenario spanning an entire pandemic wave. The primary benefit for individual institutions and firms will be the opportunity to review, test and update their pandemic plans against a realistic pandemic scenario. The exercise will also provide a training opportunity for participants with their internal operations staffs and crisis management teams.

The exercise has several objectives and some are sector wide and others are specific to individual participating firms and institutions. “From a wider standpoint, we want to determine if there are systemic risks to the sector. We are in such a broad and diverse sector, and we have critical dependencies on other sectors including electricity, telecommunications and transportation are three that I think of. We need to assess dependencies and see how they will affect us both at a sector level and at individual institutions,” he added.

“From an individual institution stand point this is a great way to test their plan. I’ve attended 5 or 6 pandemic tabletops over the past year for my firm. They were all good presentations but were tailored to the group sponsoring them. I felt as a member of a financial services company I never had the chance to test my plan against their scenario,” Engaldo said.

“What makes this exercise unique, is its length. Held over three weeks, it enables the firms to test their plans in a much more detailed fashion,” he concluded.

The exercise is designed to engage multiple functions, such as business continuity, operations, human resources, and even senior leadership decision making. Participating organizations will be able to address issues concerning:

• Medical - Absenteeism, infection rate, virulence of H5N1 strain, location of outbreaks and effectiveness and availability of vaccines and anti-virals

• Financial - Market impacts, business impacts, banking and finance infrastructure impacts

• Societal – Impacts in other infrastructures, such as telecommunications, transportation, and energy

Registration for the exercise will continue through August 31. For more information or to register: 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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