Planning Your Table Top Exercise

When I help organizations plan their table top exercises, the first thing they always want to do is to select the scenario.  And, the first thing I do is say, “Time out.”

Before you start trying to pick the coolest or best scenario to exercise your business continuity, crisis management or emergency response plans with, you must first decide what it is in your program you want to test.

For example;

  • Do you want to test for a specific building, campus or geographic region?
  • Do you want to have the facility destroyed, damaged, or simply inaccessible?
  • Do you want employees or on-site visitors impacted (injuries or deaths)?
  • Do you want your customers impacted – either increasing the demand for your services or decreasing the demand for your services?
  • Do you want your competition impacted by the event as well?
  • Do you want this to be a news worthy event or not?
  • Do you want to exercise your evacuation plans or just the business continuity strategies?
  • Do you want the impact to be short-lived or long term?
  • Do you want to also impact nearby recovery sites?
  • Do you want to impact employee’s availability to work from home?
  • And, the list goes on.

Once you have determined the scope and objectives of what it is you want to exercise, then it is much easier to pick the most relevant scenario.

Writing this blog, reminds me of a funny story that occurred while I was meeting with a client.  Due to our busy schedules we meet for lunch one day to discuss the type of table top exercise that might be right for his program.

While eating, in a very crowded restaurant, lost in the passion for what I do, I was rattling off these types of questions without being cognizant of how our conversation might sound to anyone eaves dropping from a nearby table:

“Well, what is it you want?  Do you want deaths – we’ve done bombs, fires, plane crashes, disgruntled employees … Or, do you just want to prevent access to the building?  We could do a hazmat accident on the nearby highway, or a late night fire when the building is not occupied.  Do want the disaster to be unique to your facility or impact the whole community?  We’ve done isolated events like water pipes breaking or we could do a wide-spread pandemic or dirty bomb.”

My colleague then started smiling and I asked her what was so funny.  She said, “Can you imagine if someone is listening in – you sound like a terrorist or hit squad – they are probably calling Homeland Security right now.”

Yeah, I guess sometimes I can get carried away.

Thank you for your input.