Treasury Plans to Test Industry’s Pandemic Outbreak Response

Later this fall, the Treasury Department plans a multi-week test of the financial services industry’s ability to respond to a pandemic outbreak, the exercise will include scenarios predicted for the avian flu.

"A lack of preparedness could turn a biological problem into one that seriously affects the availability of financial services to Americans and the global economy," said D. Scott Parsons, Treasury Deputy Assistant Secretary for Critical Infrastructure Protection and Compliance Policy.

"While the industry has taken up its responsibility and improved its response plans, there is still much work to be done. Treasury is encouraging financial institutions of all sizes from across the country, including banks, credit unions, securities firms and insurance companies, to participate."

The voluntary exercise will bring together the public and private sector through the Financial and Banking Information Infrastructure Committee and the Financial Services Sector Coordinating Council. The FBIIC-FSSCC Pandemic Flu Exercise of 2007, beginning September 24 and running for three weeks, will focus on the continuity of financial services for Americans in the event of a pandemic crisis. The exercise will examine a number of issues including human resources, continuity of operations, and dependencies on other sectors such as transportation, energy and telecommunications.

The test will occur entirely online using a secure website hosted by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association. The Treasury said it plans to release registration information Treasury will release registration information in the coming weeks.

The multi-week, sector-wide pandemic exercise will be the first exercise of this scope in the U.S., and is part of the Treasury Department’s actions from when President Bush directed Treasury in May 2006 to coordinate with the banking and finance sector to better prepare its response to a pandemic crisis.

The exercise is scheduled to begin on September 24, with the multi-week duration allowing sufficient time to simulate a full pandemic wave. Participants will take part in the exercise from their own locations using email and a secure exercise web site.

Key goals of the exercise include identifying systemic risk to the sector as a whole, provide participants an opportunity to test their individual plans against a realistic scenario and to clarify the ripple effects of a pandemic within the markets and interdependent sectors.

All sub-sectors of financial services are represented in the planning process, and broad participation from throughout the sector is anticipated. The exercise will also involve advisory group representatives from key sectors on which the financial industry depends, such as power and telecommunications, as well as critical agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The exercise will be comparable to the pandemic exercise conducted in the fall of 2006 in the U.K.

“This unprecedented exercise will help prepare the financial services industry to respond in the best possible way to a pandemic event,” said George S. Hender, Chairman of FSSCC. “Ensuring the financial sector can meet the challenge of all types of disruptions with minimal impact is critical to our nation.”

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