Become a Member

The Value of ChicagoFIRST

Working groups, roundtables, tabletops, workshops, and institutionalized relationships at all levels of government and across sectors contribute to member resilience. Moreover, our emergency response plan, access to the local emergency operations center, and connections to national information streams ensure that members obtain timely, accurate, and actionable information before, during, and after an event.

The Unique Vision of ChicagoFIRST

No other organization combines local preparedness with a national network so as to enhance resilience regionally.  This is the unique vision of ChicagoFIRST.

Unprecedented working relationships with public safety officials at the local, state, and federal level, with institutionalized information sharing protocols before, during, and after an emergency or major event.

Through our information sharing, collaborative activities and surveys, our members are equipped to inform their boards of directors and regulators how other critical firms are addressing issues with preparedness, security, and business continuity.

ChicagoFIRST functions as a form of insurance in the event of a crisis and as an investment in collaborating with other critical firms and with the public sector.

Some members rely on ChicagoFIRST staff to such an extent that it saves them the cost of hiring an employee to perform these types of activities.

Membership Application

If you are interested in your firm becoming a member of ChicagoFIRST, please send us a message using the “Lets Connect” box.   A prospective firm’s application is brought to ChicagoFIRST’s member firms for a vote.   If accepted, the new firm appoints a Lead Member, who can then designate other employees to receive ChicagoFIRST information, such as local law enforcement intelligence reports and alerts; participate in business continuity, physical security and cyber security work groups; attend quarterly meetings and exercises with public sector strategic partners; participate in regulatory roundtables, and plan for disasters, mass gatherings, National Special Security Events (NSSE) and protests.

We don’t place a limit on the number of people at a firm who can participate in our activities.  Larger financial institutions, exchanges and critical infrastructure firms have specialists from various functional areas participate, while smaller firms usually have fewer people that wear several hats.  The feedback we receive from smaller firms is that they view ChicagoFIRST as staff augmentation because they don’t have the time to develop the emergency management relationships and gather and analyze intelligence that we can do on their behalf.  ChicagoFIRST staff also regularly field member questions on our areas of expertise related to risk (business continuity, physical security, crisis management, etc.).  We engage in as many public private information exchanges as we can so we can synthesize that information for our members and provide them only what is relevant.

The first year membership fee is $10K, then $18.5K for subsequent years. The first year fee is prorated for the number of months remaining, so for a firm joining July 1, it is $5,000.

The Business Case for Membership

As a member of ChicagoFIRST, your organization will:

  • Join a private sector leader in the Chicago region on critical emergency preparedness issues.
  • Augment your own business continuity/disaster recovery plans and planning staff with proven information streams and notification tools, provided to every member of ChicagoFIRST.
  • Share business continuity/disaster recovery best practices and lessons learned with business leaders in Chicago.
  • Join a nationally recognized leader in business continuity and homeland security.
  • Gain a voice in national homeland security policy making on issues that affect your firm.
  • Benefit from the professionalism, expertise, and experience of the ChicagoFIRST staff.

Working Groups:

Working groups on cyber security, physical security and on business continuity meet regularly.  Members develop collaborative sharing relationships, discussing lessons learned and best practices from real world events and internal firm activities.


The Regulator Roundtable addresses issues such as IT vendor risk management and remote work capabilities, with an emphasis on the regulatory environment.

Workshops & Tabletop Exercises:

Workshops and tabletops exercises are developed and facilitated by ChicagoFIRST staff with critical input from its public sector partners. ChicagoFIRST can also conduct tabletop exercises for individual members at a rate substantially below those of outside consultants.

Recent examples include active shooter, which featured members discussing their respective programs and any challenges faced in establishing them; telecommuting, which was the 6th annual such work-from-home exercise, and the largest thus far; pandemic, which featured several Chicago public health participants; and Quantum Dawn 2, with ChicagoFIRST serving as a local hub as part of a cyber exercise being conducted in New York.

Leadership in the Private Sector:

ChicagoFIRST chairs, participates in the leadership of, or is a member of many important resilience and security partnerships at the national, regional, state, and local levels.

Chicago Public/Private Task Force: ChicagoFIRST and the Chicago Office of Emergency Management & Communications co-chair this body. Private sector members include operational partnerships, while public safety agencies constitute the public sector members. ChicagoFIRST encouraged its establishment, which occurred in 2010, and has co-chaired it since then.

Chicago Electronic Crime Task Force: ChicagoFIRST serves on the steering committee for the U.S. Secret Service sponsored CECTF.  Members of the steering committee drive the agenda for the group and coordinate the quarterly meetings.

Regional Partnership Council (RPCfirst): ChicagoFIRST is a member of RPCfirst, which fosters collaboration among the regional coalitions modeled after ChicagoFIRST. There are nearly 20 such coalitions. ChicagoFIRST led RPCfirst from 2005 to 2015.

Financial Services Sector Coordinating Council (FSSCC): ChicagoFIRST serves on the Executive Committee of FSSCC, which is the financial sector component of the national public/private partnership. FSSCC formed in 2002, and ChicagoFIRST has been a member since 2004 and on the Executive Committee since 2009.

Regional Consortium Coordinating Council (RC3): ChicagoFIRST has served on the Executive Committee of the RC3 since 2011, after having served as its inaugural chair from 2008 to 2011. The RC3 is a component of National Infrastructure Protection Plan, which seeks to foster collaboration among public/private partnerships nationally. The map illustrates the geographic coverage of the RC3.

Emergency Operations Role:

Before, during, and after an emergency event, ChicagoFIRST supports its membership in several ways.

  • Coordinate with the public sector on the local, state, and federal levels;
  • Coordinate with membership to gather information or to take necessary actions; and
  • Coordinate with other critical infrastructure entities as necessary to share information or take necessary actions.

ChicagoFIRST has many communication tools and protocols through which the organization will gather and disseminate information to and from the public sector and its membership, all of which are described for its members in the ChicagoFIRST Emergency Operations Plan. This plan can be incorporated into member plans as a key component of a firm’s response to and recovery from an event.

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Our Team

Michael Carano

(Executive Director)

Michael Carano, Executive Director, ChicagoFIRST Mr. Michael Carano is the Executive Director of ChicagoFIRST, a non-profit association of mid-western private sector firms that coordinates critical…


  • ChicagoFIRST has truly made a positive difference to the collective emergency preparedness and business continuity of Chicago’s financial community.  It has become a model for many other cities throughout the country.  We are especially grateful that the City of Chicago has an impressive reputation for working together with its business community, the State of Illinois and federal government agencies, and other key organizations through the ChicagoFIRST partnership structure.  This approach is extremely effective and helpful in supporting the broader Federal Reserve objective of maintaining a stable financial system.

    Gordon Werkema, First Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago
  • ChicagoFIRST is a dynamic, cutting edge organization and a model for how regional public/private partnerships can enhance the resiliency of financial institutions. ChicagoFIRST was founded because of the foresight of the Chicago financial services community, and it succeeds because of the cooperation and encouragement of the public sector, especially the City of Chicago and State of Illinois.

    Rahm Emanuel, 5th Congressional District (D-IL)
  • The timely and accurate information streams that I receive through ChicagoFIRST more than justify membership. When the airplane landed in the Hudson River in New York City in January 2009, I learned about it before my colleagues in New York did.

    Michael Wallace, Vice President, BMO Harris Bank

Key Strategic Partners