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).
JEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photoFollowing UW?s 21-17 loss in the Outback Bowl, UW first team, all-Big Ten cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu said he would need to receive a fairly high grade from the NFL?s underclassman scouting services if he were to forego his senior season and enter the NFL draft.?I think I would be selling myself short if I didn?t come back, if I was graded anything less than the first couple rounds,? Ikegwuonu said. ?I think my coaches and my teammates and people around me that care about me told me I?d be selling myself short if I didn?t have confidence in my abilities.?Ikegwuonu must have liked what he heard from the NFL, because the junior decided to make himself eligible for the draft in early January.In a very brief statement issued by the UW Athletic Communications office, head coach Bret Bielema acknowledged the situation.?I can confirm that Jack Ikegwuonu, who just completed his fourth year with our program, has informed me that he will forgo his senior year and make himself available for the 2008 National Football League Draft,?Bielema said in the statement.Ikegwuonu?s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, did not return requests for comment.A Madison native, Ikegwuonu spent 2004 ? his first year on campus ? as a redshirt in the program. Ikegwuonu started his career off fast as a second-year freshman, earning first-team freshman All-American honors from The Sporting News, and tying for the team lead in interceptions with three.As a full-time starter the following season, Ikegwuonu was named first-team All-Big Ten by the conference coaches after intercepting two passes and registering 50 tackles.Ikegwuonu?s numbers fell sharply in 2007 (one interception, 24 tackles), in large part because opposing offenses tended to not even throw in his direction. Despite the statistical drop-off, Ikegwuonu was a consensus all-conference selection by both the coaches and media.Ikegwuonu?s early departure will leave the Wisconsin cornerback position almost completely up for grabs when spring practice opens in March. Both Allen Langford and Aaron Henry ? corners who started opposite Ikegwuonu for the regular season ? suffered serious knee injuries late in the year, and how much, if any, they will play next fall is still unknown. Sophomore Josh Nettles would seem to have the inside track on one of the starting spots, and redshirt freshmen Mario Goins and Niles Brinkley could both challenge for time as well.Based on his previous comments regarding where he would need to be drafted to leave school early and numerous draft analyses done by close talent evaluators, Ikegwuonu is likely a second or third-round draft prospect.Coaching staff loses twoIn addition to reshuffling his defensive backfield, Bielema will also have some shuffling to do with his coaching staff.Following the 21-17 defeat in the Outback Bowl, offensive line coach Bob Palcic left UW to take the same position under newly-hired UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel.Bielema didn?t wait long to fill Palcic?s position, promoting former tight ends coach Bob Bostad to the newly vacated post.Following a season in which the UW defense failed to live up to preseason expectations, Bielema relieved defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz of his duties and promoted co-defensive coordinator, linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator Dave Doeren. Hankwitz quickly landed on his feet, signing on for the same capacity at Northwestern.Returning eight starters from a defense ranked third in the nation both in points and yards allowed, the Badgers plummeted to 35th and 38th, respectively, in 2007. The defense also struggled mightily to defend spread offenses, an emerging tactic across the conference.“Dave Doeren and Bob Bostad have earned these promotions through hard work and their ability to handle additional responsibilities with our program,” Bielema said in an Athletic Communications release. “I hired them both originally with the thought that they could both eventually move into these new positions at some point, so I’m pleased that is happening.?Chryst staying putFor the second consecutive year, offensive coordinator Paul Chryst was rumored to be leaving Wisconsin.In the days following the Outback Bowl, there were whispers that Chryst would move to Purdue to become offensive coordinator and head coach in waiting.That move never came to fruition, and Chryst stayed put.Last winter, Chryst was pursued by the Dallas Cowboys to become their quarterbacks coach. Chryst eventually withdrew from consideration and signed a five-year, $1.75 million extension with UW.