An Organization is Not “Crisis Ready” Unless it Validates Plans and Teams Through Crisis Simulation Exercises on an Ongoing Basis

Do your crisis simulation exercises really engage your team members? Are they impactful in a way that your leadership team wants to invest more time and financial resources into them? Not sure? Then this short article will help you take your exercises to the next level and ensure your leadership team invests in a long-term approach to crisis simulation exercises.

The main purpose of conducting effective crisis simulation exercises is to enable the team to improve its skills, and to help them identify any gaps in plans and procedures. To ensure this happens, your exercise needs to be designed, delivered and evaluated thoroughly. Here are four reasons crisis scenario planning is effective:

  1. Tell a story and they will listen and engage

One of the primary reasons exercises fail is because they don’t engage participants. This is often due to the lack of creativity in the design of the scenario. When creating the scenario for your exercise, start to consider what will happen and how it would happen. Remember, objectives drive the scenario not the other way around. Draft a beginning (how does it unfold) a middle (how bad do we want it to get) and an ending (recovery) and then the details can be added to make up individual or periodic injects. To ensure the story is engaging, add characters. These might be real employees or adversaries depending on your scenario. We can relate to characters especially if they are real people or taken from other real situations and modified to fit your circumstances. Telling a story and adding actual people into the story should ensure your exercise is engaging for the participants.

Resource: Learn How to Create and Deliver Crisis Simulation Exercises with this eLearning Course


  1. There’s no “i” in team

If your scenarios are created with the precise amount of detail that they should include, each member of your team should be challenged throughout the exercise. We often see leaders trying to make decisions based on a limited amount of information and without counsel from their team. A leader must set the tone for the team while at the same time listen to all relevant stakeholders before coming to a decision. Some decisions are clearer than others. The leader may choose to wait for more facts before making one.

One of the primary reasons exercises fail is because they don’t engage participants


  1. How do you know you have a problem?

To truly simulate the kind of additional problems that usually arise during a crisis, teams must be challenged by the appearance of a specific set of complicating issues (injects) during the exercise. These injects will allow the team to discuss what courses of action they should take in response to each set of issues. You can’t work on a problem unless you know what the problem is. Only by walking through a simulated scenario and its complicating injects with the full crisis team and your critical stakeholders, will you truly understand and be able to correct whatever problems might be in your plan and in your team’s responses.

Resource: 5 Steps to Creating Crisis Simulation Tabletop Exercises – eBook


  1. Quick decision-making in the heat of battle

Leaders are only truly prepared for crises when they’re taken through their paces in realistic and challenging crisis simulation exercises. Leaders are presented with a lot of information that is changing rapidly, which makes decision-making a much more pressurized task. When a crisis team supports its leader with accurate and timely information through a disciplined briefing cycle, it allows the leader to come to a decision more accurately and in a timely manner. Crisis simulation exercises allow leaders to be taken through their paces to practice making critical decisions, which will prepare them for real crises. Practice may not make you perfect, but it will make you better prepared.


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Rob Burton

Rob Burton

Rob is a Principal at PreparedEx where he manages a team of crisis preparedness professionals and has over 20 years of experience preparing for and responding to crises. Part of his leadership role includes assisting PreparedEx clients in designing, implementing and evaluating crisis, emergency, security and business continuity management programs. During his career Rob has worked for the US State Department’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program, as a crisis management consultant in Pakistan and Afghanistan where he negotiated with the UN and Pashtun tribal warlords and he served with the United Kingdom Special Forces where he operated internationally under hazardous covert and confidential conditions. Rob was also part of a disciplined and prestigious unit The Grenadier Guards where he served Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the Royal Palaces in London. Rob was a highly trained and experienced infantryman serving in Desert Storm and commanded covert operational teams and was a sniper. Rob has keynoted disaster recovery conferences and participated in live debates on FOX News regarding complex security requirements and terrorism. Rob has a Queen’s Commendation for Bravery.