Having completed the appropriate crisis management training, teams need to confirm their knowledge and understanding by taking part in scenario-based crisis management exercises.
Exercises come in a variety of formats such as:
- Simple ‘desktop’ exercises to build plan awareness;
- Command exercises to practise teams in working together under pressure; and
- Simulation exercises to test people, plans and infrastructure.
Everybody with a designated role in the incident response structure should take part in some form of crisis management training at least once a year to maintain their readiness.
Desktop exercises are one of the most widely-used and cost-effective tools in BCM and crisis management training. As the name suggests, a desktop exercise (or tabletop exercise) takes place with delegates sitting around a table, managing a fictional scenario which is typically delivered as a series of powerpoint slides. There is no role-playing or dramatic simulations.
Despite the simplicity of the format, desktop exercises are extremely effective in:
- Improving people’s awareness of their organisation’s BCM plans;
- Practising members of incident management teams in their roles; and
- Identifying gaps, errors and opportunities for improvement in BCM plans.
Desktop exercises are therefore an invaluable aid to plan development and initial training of incident management teams.
Command exercises are a more advanced format of training, where one or more incident management teams responds to a scenario delivered via phone, email and other media by a live “Input Cell”.
Building on the lessons learned in desktop exercises, a command exercise practices teams in managing information in a fast-paced environment; and gives them a chance to refine their team dynamics.
The input cell can also react in real time to the decisions of the exercising teams, making command exercises very flexible.
Simulation exercises are the most advanced form of training for incident management teams; and are only used by a small minority of organisations. There are two basic types of simulation exercise:
- Live rehearsals, where staff actually carry out actions as directed by the exercising team(s); and
- Software-based simulations, where a computer models the effects of the teams’ actions based on the data it holds about building layouts, staff numbers, IT systems and supply chains.
Either type of simulation requires a great deal of planning and preparation, and significant resources to facilitate. They are therefore a very expensive option, and only really of value in the most time-critical sectors such as the emergency services, healthcare and mass transport.
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Click the button to see some examples of crisis management training and exercises.