The Future Today – Simultaneous Multi-Site Mock Disaster Exercises

Michael Herrera

If leading a single site mock disaster exercise isn’t difficult enough, leading a simultaneous multi-site mock disaster exercise is not for the faint of heart.  However, in today’s world of emerging threats and the potential for sites hundreds of miles aways to be disrupted at the same time by disparate events, the need for multi-site mock disaster exercises is becoming common place.

In the past, it was not atypical for BCM planners to make assumptions that we would not be dealing with two (2) disasters at the same time. Well, that is changing and more of our customers are looking to have multi-site mock disaster exercises conducted for their organizations.

A Fortune 25 client of MHA recently had us facilitate a  mock disaster exercise for two of their major Distribution Center (DC).  The DC’s are over 500 miles apart and highly dependent on each other for product to be delivered to the Retail store network.  Additionally, the corporate logistics team is responsible for coordinating the ordering, transportation, distribution and delivery of product across the enterprise supply chain.  So, in this exercise, we had three sites participating in the exercise;  the two DCs and the corporate logistics team.

So how did we successfully accomplish this exercise:

  1. MATURITY – If you do not have a reasonably mature crisis management process already in place, DO NOT ATTEMPT to execute it.
  2. FACILITATION – To be successful at the exercise, you must have a person who can faciliate the exercise in a manner that keeps all sites actively involved and the exercise on time.
  3. PLANNING – It is critical that you do your homework.  We took the time to thoroughly understand each DC, how they are dependent on each other and what the impacts are to the supply chain on a local and enterprise basis.
  4. SCENARIOS – We designed two independent scenarios that required each DC to deal with its own event but required them to deal with their dependent DC as well as the Corporate Logistics group.  Each scenario was unique to the DC.
  5. COMMUNICATION – To ensure we could effectively communicate real time, we used corporate video conferencing technology to have all three sites online during the exercise.
  6. TRAINING – The Corporate Logistics team held mini mock disaster exercises for each DC prior to the simultaneous exercise.  Both sites were well prepared and versed in the crisis management process.
  7. TIMELINE – We had four hours to hold training, the exercise and time for a short post-exercise analysis.  The exercise timeline must be succinct but permit time for participants to adequately address the event and use their plans to respond and recover.

Today’s highly integrated business world is making multi-site mock disaster exercises for those organizations looking to truly “stress-test” their plans, strategies, and most importantly; their recovery teams.