It’s time to take a step back and look at all of the contingencies that you have in place.
How are your employees trained? What is your plan for when an emergency situation arises? You may think that it will never happen, but who would’ve thought we’d be dealing with natural disasters like Hurricane Elsa or Ida this year? Or what about the supply chain issues in China due to the blackouts? It is imperative to conduct simulation exercises so that our organization can be prepared for anything.
A simulation exercise can focus on testing just one aspect of your emergency and contingency response plans—whether it be fire drills or assessing being without a critical process as part of your BCP will impact you—so you can identify any areas for improvement before disaster strikes. These types of simulations are also referred to as tabletop exercises because they’re conducted using only paper planning documents at a meeting table (or virtually) without actually involving the right equipment needed for implementation (e.g., computers). While this may sound easy enough, many organizations make the mistake of thinking that these types of exercises are just for middle management to go over the general response plan.
Tabletop Emergency Exercises
However, a tabletop exercise is actually designed so everyone from the top down can participate and play their part in an emergency situation. That means employees at every level should be involved if possible—from those who handle client accounts on a regular basis all the way up to your CEO’s office staff. If you’re able to include as many members as possible during this simulation process, it will help identify what could potentially break down once disaster strikes and allow you to fix those areas before real damage occurs. Although these more advanced tabletop exercises may take more planning, they’re certainly worth the investment in time and other resources needed.
Your organization may have multiple locations or business units across different states or even countries. In this case, it is even more important to get all of your business units together in one room (virtually) so you can conduct a tabletop exercise for each location. You can start the exercise with everyone together and then as you walk through the scenario you can break into smaller more manageable groups as you would in a real crisis situation. This will help identify the weak links and allow everyone on your team to work as one cohesive unit when responding to an emergency situation or business continuity incident.
Related: PreparedEx Podcast – Virtual Exercises – What We Have Learned
Include Critical Partners in Your Tabletop Exercises
Although it’s important to include your business units in the tabletop exercise, some organizations may have critical external partners they need to involve as well. Depending on what type of industry you are involved with, there is a good chance that you will work closely with other companies every day—some who might even be suppliers or equipment providers. If this is the case, you should consider bringing them into the tabletop exercise. It’s important to note that not every business partner needs to be included in your tabletop exercises since some may not have a role during an emergency or BCP incident. However, if they do play a strategic part in how work gets done on a day-to-day basis—such as IT providers, vendors, or manufacturing partners—you should include them in the tabletop exercise at least once. This way you can test your communication and coordination with these stakeholders to make sure they are able to meet all of your requirements when a disaster strikes.
Related: Think You Are an Effective Business Continuity Trainer?
So whether it be testing just one aspect of your emergency, crisis or BC response plans for employees involved on a daily basis or engaging your entire organization during a tabletop exercise, it’s important to conduct this type of simulation at least once every three months.
How often do you carry out simulation exercises in order to keep the team and your partners ready for any eventuality?