Facilitating Crisis Management Mock Disaster Exercises

Michael Herrera

I have personally facilitated over 200 mock disaster exercises in my career and enjoy every minute of it.  Facilitating a well thought out crisis management exercise takes time and effort. I have a few objectives when I design an exercise:

  1. Transfer knowledge to participants and their mental database of crisis management that can be used when a real event occurs.
  2. Validate the process used by the team to respond, recover and resume business operations.
  3. Validate the plan and its capabilities.
  4. Assess all participants and their capabilities to use process to respond to the event.
  5. Incorporating internal and external subject matter experts to ensure the exercise and scenario is realistic.
  6. Heighten capability of the team.

It generally takes me 24 to 32 hours to create a brand new exercise from scratch, 4 hours for the exercise and 8 hours to write up the post exercise report.   A 3 hour exercise with a 1/2 hour for follow up and action items is generally sufficient for most teams.  Items to consider when designing an exercise:

  1. What is the maurity of your Crisis Management Team?    Lower level of maturity use a less complex exercise, higher level of maturity use a more complex event.
  2. What are your objectives? Do you want to test specific plan components, people or capabilities?  Make sure your exercise meets the objectives.
  3. How will measure improvements in readiness based on the exercise?  Outline key components that must be met by the team to measure success.
  4. The exercise should provide opportunity for all participants to interact and not have a few consume the entire exercise.

You must have a good faciliator to present the exercise scenario, update with new events and keep it on schedule.  Provide breaks for participants during the exercise.  Your scenario should have a logical progression from time of incident, response, recovery and resumption of business.

A great book to read on Crisis Management is Sources of Power by Dr. Gary Klein outlining how people respond to crisis and why certain professionals (e.g. firemen, emergency room doctors, etc.) are so good at it.

About MHA:  MHA Consulting is a leading boutique Business Continuity Planning, Disaster Recovery and IT Optimization consulting services firm for Fortune 1000 companies.  Visit our website at www.mha-it.com or contact Michael Herrera at herrera@mha-it.com for information on our Mock Disaster Exercise services.

crisis communications