tabletop exercise

Earthquakes can strike without warning, causing immense damage to businesses and putting lives at risk.

Being prepared for such events is critical for ensuring the safety of your employees and the continuity of your operations. One of the most effective ways to prepare your business for earthquakes is by conducting tabletop exercises. These simulation-based training events are designed to help businesses identify gaps in their emergency response plans and improve their overall resiliency. In this blog, we’ll explore the steps to run a successful tabletop exercise for earthquake preparedness, focusing on life safety, continuity of operations, and resilience.  

What is a Tabletop Exercise? 

A tabletop exercise is a simulated scenario that helps organizations practice their emergency response plans in a controlled, low-risk environment. These exercises bring together key stakeholders, such as management, emergency response teams, and support staff, to discuss and identify potential issues in their response plans. By running tabletop exercises, businesses can assess their ability to respond effectively to emergencies, ultimately improving the safety and resilience of their organization. 

Benefits of Running a Tabletop Exercise for Earthquake Preparedness 

  1. Identifies gaps in emergency response plans 
  1. Enhances communication and collaboration among stakeholders 
  1. Improves decision-making during emergencies 
  1. Builds confidence in the organization’s ability to respond to earthquakes 
  1. Ensures continuity of operations and minimizes business disruptions 

Steps to Run a Tabletop Exercise for Earthquake Preparedness 

Step 1: Define Objectives and Scope 

The first step in running a tabletop exercise is to establish clear objectives and define the scope of the exercise. Objectives should be specific, measurable, and aligned with your organization’s overall goals. For earthquake preparedness, objectives might include assessing the effectiveness of evacuation procedures, testing communication protocols, and evaluating the adequacy of resources available for disaster response. 

Step 2: Develop the Earthquake Scenario 

Next, create a realistic earthquake scenario that will be used during the exercise. This should include details such as the magnitude of the earthquake, location, and time of occurrence. It’s essential to consider the potential impacts on your organization, including building damage, employee injuries, and disruptions to operations. The scenario should be challenging yet plausible, providing an opportunity for participants to test their response capabilities. 

Related: 15 Crises to Continue to Monitor in 2023

Step 3: Identify Participants and Roles 

Identify the key stakeholders who will participate in the exercise, such as management, emergency response teams, and support staff. Assign roles to each participant, ensuring that all aspects of the response plan are represented. It’s important to include a diverse group of participants to ensure a comprehensive evaluation of the organization’s preparedness. 

Step 4: Prepare and Distribute Exercise Materials 

Develop and distribute materials to support the exercise, such as maps, floor plans, and checklists. These materials should be easy to understand and relevant to the earthquake scenario. It’s also helpful to provide participants with a brief overview of the objectives and scope of the exercise, as well as their individual roles and responsibilities. 

Step 5: Conduct the Tabletop Exercise 

On the day of the exercise, all participants gather in a designated location and present the earthquake scenario. Facilitate a structured discussion, encouraging participants to share their thoughts on how the organization should respond to the simulated emergency. Throughout the exercise, focus on life safety, continuity of operations, and overall resiliency. Take detailed notes on the discussions and any issues that arise, as this information will be valuable during the debriefing process. 

Step 6: Debrief and Evaluate the Exercise 

After the exercise, conduct a debriefing session to review the discussions, identify any gaps in the emergency response plan, and evaluate the organization’s overall preparedness. Encourage open and honest feedback from participants, as this will help your business improve its response capabilities. Use the insights gained during the exercise to revise and update your emergency response plan, addressing any identified weaknesses or gaps. 

Step 7: Implement Lessons Learned and Update Plans 

Finally, take the lessons learned from the tabletop exercise and use them to update your organization’s emergency response plan. Ensure that any necessary revisions are made and communicate these changes to all relevant personnel. Schedule regular tabletop exercises to maintain and improve your organization’s preparedness for earthquakes and other emergencies. 

Related: Essential Emergency Drills for the Workplace

Key Takeaways for Running a Successful Tabletop Exercise 

  1. Define clear objectives and scope for the exercise. 
  1. Develop a realistic and challenging earthquake scenario. 
  1. Identify and assign roles to a diverse group of participants. 
  1. Prepare and distribute relevant exercise materials. 
  1. Facilitate structured discussions, focusing on life safety, continuity of operations, and resiliency. 
  1. Debrief and evaluate the exercise, identifying gaps and areas for improvement. 
  1. Implement lessons learned and update your emergency response plan accordingly. 


Running a tabletop exercise for earthquake preparedness is an essential part of ensuring the safety of your employees and the continuity of your operations. By following the steps outlined in this blog, you can help your business build resilience and be better prepared to respond to earthquakes and other emergencies. Remember, regular practice and evaluation are crucial for maintaining an effective emergency response plan, so schedule tabletop exercises periodically to stay prepared and resilient in the face of potential disasters. 

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.