School closings as a community mitigation tactic during a pandemic would significantly or moderately affect about 72% of participating financial institutions. Nearly 99% of respondents thought the exercise was useful for assessing pandemic preparedness. Oct 26, 2007 (CIDRAP News) The US Department of the Treasury this week announced the results of a recent exercise to test the resiliency of the nation’s financial services sector in an influenza pandemic, revealing that few firms were well prepared and most needed to improve their all-hazards plans. The simulation began with the World Health Organization announcing that human-to-human cases of H5N1 avian influenza had been reported in five major US cities, probably because of infected travelers arriving from Lagos, Nigeria. Most (91%) said they would refine their business continuity plans on the basis of what they learned from the exercise. As the simulated outbreak spread across the country, companies were asked a series of preparedness questions on topics such as predicted absenteeism, the status of human resources plans for a pandemic, and plans for educating employees. Questions specifically relating to financial operations, for example, included detailed questions about predicted automatic teller machine (ATM) availability and how the companies would respond if daily security trading hours were shortened. At the end of the exercise, the groups were asked how effective their business continuity plans were. Nearly 12% said their plans were very effective, 56% reported they were moderately effective, 28% rated them as minimally effective, and 4% said the plans were “not at all” effective. As the planners analyze more of the exercise data in the coming months, they will release more detailed information on the pandemic’s impact and the industry’s response, officials said. Of the participating organizations, 64% reported they had a business continuity plan for use in a pandemic, but only 42% said they had human resources policies in place to respond to employees’ needs during a pandemic. Among other findings, Treasury Department officials learned that: Establishing a telecommuting system and dividing and dispersing work units were the two most common steps companies said they would take to maintain business operations during a pandemic. In May 2006 the White House directed the Treasury Department to work with banking and financial services companies to boost their pandemic preparedness, according to an Oct 24 department press release. As the exercise progressed, the companies responded to fluctuating market indicators and varying absenteeism rates. At the peak of the pandemic, the exercise simulated a 49% absenteeism rate. The last phase of the exercise centered on the nation’s recovery from a pandemic, with preparation for a possible next wave of illnesses. “The strong public-private coordination on this exercise allowed us to reach more institutions than we ever expected,” said Valerie Abend, the department’s assistant secretary for critical infrastructure protection, in a press release. “And by allowing almost all participants to find critical gaps in their planning, this exercise was an unquestionable success in helping the industry prepare for such a crisis.” As the pandemic progressed, the exercise described emerging impacts on supply chains, worker absentee rates, healthcare systems, schools, transportation, financial market indicators, and market reactions. The Treasury Department said 2,775 organizations registered for the exercise; 65% were banks and credit unions, 23% security firms, 11% insurance companies, and 4% other groups (utilities, industry associations, and regulators). The exercise was conducted Sep 24 through Oct 12 and consisted of an online program of weekly scenarios and preparedness questions. The exercise was organized by two Treasury divisions: the Financial Banking Information Infrastructure Committee (FBIIC) and the Financial Services Sector Coordinating Council (FSSCC).
Manchester City clinched an eventful win at Arsenal to keep up the pressure on leaders Manchester United.The Gunners had Laurent Koscielny sent off after 10 minutes for hauling down Edin Dzeko in the box, but Dzeko saw the resulting penalty saved.City poured forward and James Milner put them ahead with an angled finish.Dzeko made it 2-0 from close range but Arsenal dug in after half-time and Vincent Kompany’s late red card meant both sides finished with 10 men.Kompany will feel the decision, for what referee Mike Dean adjudged to be a reckless tackle on Jack Wilshere, was harsh but it gave the Gunners hope in the last 15 minutes.Even then, the home side struggled to create chances, and their first serious shot on target came in the 90th minute when Theo Walcott beat Joe Hart but saw Joleon Lescott clear off the line. City’s win did not end up being as resounding as it had threatened to be, but it was still a crucial result in the title race.Manchester United’s victory over Liverpool earlier on Sunday had increased their advantage at the top of the table to 10 points, piling the pressure on City to respond with a positive result.The defending champions’ appalling record at Arsenal – they had not beaten the Gunners at the Emirates Stadium or Highbury in the league for more than 37 years – did not offer Roberto Mancini’s men much encouragement of managing that before kick-off.But Koscielny’s 10th-minute sending off, after he had wrestled Dzeko to the ground inside the area by wrapping two arms around the Bosnian striker to prevent him running on to a Gareth Barry header, handed City the perfect platform to change that awful statistic, and keep their neighbours in sight. Dzeko made a hash of the resulting penalty, firing it straight at Wojciech Szczesny’s legs and seeing the Gunners keeper grab the ball after it rolled back towards him along the goalline. It did not take City long to make their extra man count, however. Arsenal switched off at a free-kick, which Barry took quickly, and Carlos Tevez slid Milner clear to beat Szczesny with a powerful angled finish.More chances followed, with Javi Garcia heading the best of them wide. Arsenal could do little but try to halt the relentless pressure, but they conceded a second goal after 32 minutes.Again, more could have been done more to prevent it. Milner fired in a dangerous cross after Pablo Zabaleta got the better of Kieran Gibbs down the right and, although Szczesny kept out Tevez’s initial effort, Dzeko was on hand to tap home the rebound.Only a Wilshere header off the line stopped Garcia heading home a third before half-time and, at the interval, City might have been thinking of how they could give their goal-difference a boost.Instead, Arsenal showed commendable spirit to stop the flood of City attacks, even if they rarely threatened at the other end. Szczesny did well to dive at the feet of Tevez when he ran clear but, aside from an Olivier Giroud header that flew over Hart’s bar, that was the most meaningful incident of any kind until Kompany saw red.City’s captain got the ball when he slid in on Wilshere and protested his innocence to referee Dean, but the official made it clear he felt it was a dangerous challenge.With parity restored in terms of men on the field, the home fans tried to roar their side forward.But the closest Arsenal came to a reply was when substitute Lescott denied Walcott, leaving Arsene Wenger’s men six points adrift of a top-four spot, albeit with a game in hand on fourth-placed Tottenham.Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger: ” “It was frustrating [to go down to 10 men] but we got away with it [with the penalty miss]. “We were down to 10 men with 80 minutes to go and knew it would be a difficult game. “We gave away two cheap goals, at 10 men you keep it 0-0 and you never know.“But we were too timid and did not have enough authority on the game. We let them dictate the game to us and when we went 1-0 down it was difficult.”Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini: “If you play with 10 players it is very difficult [like Arsenal had to do for most of the game].“But, we started with a good attitude and pressed high as we wanted to win the game, it was easier after the sending off. Second half we were too soft and I thought the game could re-open.“It was an important victory. We knew it was difficult to play here [at Emirates Stadium].”