SOURCE: ChicagoFIRST

January 16, 2007 12:56 ET

ChicagoFIRST Hosts Resilience Exercise Testing Response to Pandemic Influenza

CHICAGO, IL -- (MARKET WIRE) -- January 16, 2007 -- In December, ChicagoFIRST hosted its third comprehensive Resilience Exercise for its financial community members and the public sector. This year's exercise focused on the effect that an influenza pandemic may have on the daily operations of the Chicago financial sector and the economy overall. The exercise was sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

More than 100 representatives of Chicago's financial sector and over 20 critical public sector partners -- including officials from the City of Chicago's Office of the Mayor, Emergency Management, Police, Fire, Public Health, and Aviation departments, as well as the State of Illinois, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the Securities and Exchange Commission -- took part in the exercise.

"ChicagoFIRST plays an important part in our strategy as the Sector Specific Agency for the Banking and Finance Sector to protect the critical infrastructure. Treasury is pleased to have sponsored this exercise between ChicagoFIRST and federal, state, and local officials," said U.S. Treasury Deputy Assistant Secretary D. Scott Parsons. "These Resilience Exercises help both the public and private sectors work together to refine our plans and procedures and respond to potential crises."

The participants gathered to explore the unique challenges of, and likely operational responses to, a pandemic influenza outbreak. Exercise teams, comprised of various financial services organizations and public sector officials, were challenged to recover from potential societal conditions including school and building closures, as well as public transit service reductions, and to identify methods to protect their employees.

The ChicagoFIRST exercise identified a number of additional challenges that would face the financial community if a pandemic influenza should strike. The most critical issue concerns telecommunications. If a pandemic occurs, most financial institutions will institute some form of telecommuting policy. But it is not clear that the telecommunications infrastructure in neighborhoods can handle the increased traffic. Another issue concerns the distribution and protection of cash during such an event, when demand for the commodity will rise and the ability of providing it will be strained. An after-action report identifying these and other lessons learned is currently being drafted. ChicagoFIRST will work with its strategic partners, including the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the Financial Services Sector Coordinating Council, and the Department of the Treasury to address these issues.

"We were thrilled to have U.S. Treasury's support in organizing this very important event, which helped participants identify methods of improving their pandemic plans. It also illustrated the important information coordination role that would be played by ChicagoFIRST in such a crisis," said Brian Tishuk, Executive Director of ChicagoFIRST. "We know that the issues and action items resulting from this exercise will improve the Chicago financial community's response to a pandemic and will enhance the resilience of this vital sector as a whole."

The exercise concludes another successful year for ChicagoFIRST, which welcomed four new members -- Aon, CNA, Goldman Sachs and PrivateBank & Trust -- bringing total membership to 26 organizations.

About ChicagoFIRST

ChicagoFIRST was formed in July 2003 by Chicago-area financial organizations and seeks to enhance the resilience of the Chicago financial community. It does this by establishing relationships between the Chicago financial community and all levels of government and by providing a means by which the financial firms can coordinate with respect to homeland security issues. Additional information can be found at www.chicagofirst.org.

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