Pandemic Exercise UnderwayNearly 3000 Firms Participating in Nationwide Test
The multi-week, sector-wide pandemic exercise that kicked off on September 24 is underway with 2725 firms registered and participating. The exercise, which is the first of this scope in the U.S., is sponsored by the U.S. Treasury Department, in partnership with FSSCC, the Financial and Banking Information Infrastructure Committee (FBIIC), and with the Securities Industry and Financial Management Association (SIFMA) playing a key planning and project management role.
The overall reaction and level of participation in the industry has pleased the FSSCC and FBIIC coordinators. “When we first speculated how many firms would participate, we didn’t know what to expect,” says Dave Engaldo, a member of the FSSCC leadership team. “Based on previous tests, we were expecting 1000 to 1200 firms. The number of more than 2700 has exceeded all of our expectations.”
Engaldo notes there is a great representative cross section of firms participating, “From top end firms, global institutions with 100,000 employees down to the ‘mom and pop’ credit unions and community banks and everything else between.”
He also adds that the first week has gone off with very few problems. “We’ve only had a handful of password resets needed. People were poised and ready to respond to our questions.” He points to the level of preparation as a reason for few problems. “We included three ‘question and answer’ telephone sessions over the past months to field questions from institutions and others in financial services industry so they could ask information from us and get clarification as to what they would expect.”
This is the first exercise whose primary focus is to test participating firms’ pandemic plans against a scenario spanning an entire pandemic wave. The primary benefit for individual institutions and firms is the opportunity to review, test and update their pandemic plans against a realistic pandemic scenario. The exercise provides 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,” Engaldo says. “We are in such a broad and diverse sector, and we have critical dependencies on other sectors including electricity, telecommunications and transportation. We need to assess dependencies and see how they will affect us both at a sector level and at individual institutions.”
The exercise is designed to engage multiple functions, such as business continuity, operations, human resources, and even senior leadership decision making. Participating organizations are addressing 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
The exercise runs through October 12, and the exercise results gathered will be reported shortly afterward.