Tabletop Continuity Exercises
Conducting testing and exercises will evaluate the effectiveness of your BCP, as well as make sure employees know what to do and also identify any missing pieces. There could be parts of the plan that actually will not work in practice. Now is the time to identify deficiencies. A good exercise will:
- Clarify roles and responsibilities of all staff members
- Reinforce knowledge of procedures, facilities, systems and equipment
- Improve individual performance as well as organizational coordination and communications
- Reveal weaknesses and identify action items that need follow up
A tabletop exercise is a great way to get your team involved in testing the written Business Continuity Plan. Tabletop exercises are discussion-based sessions where team members meet in an informal setting to discuss their responses to a particular emergency situation. The duration of a tabletop exercise depends on the audience, the complexity of the scenario being exercised and the overall exercise objectives. Some may call it a mock or simulated disaster but without the full scale simulation but remember, with Business Continuity Planning, the focus should be on “how business will be restored after loss of critical resources”. Tabletop exercises are cost-effective and time considerate tools that can validate plans and competences.
- Equipment needed: One deck of playing card and one die
- Roll the die to determine the day of the week.
- Pick a card to select the type of disaster or situation.
- The moderator reveals the scenario. Then asks the teams to work together in small groups (if applicable) and prepare a plan for how their unit would respond to the situation and prepare to report back to the group.
- As groups are well into their planning session, the moderator may decide to add another element or escalate the situation, which may now create the need to change course.
- The moderator determines how quickly events unfold and when time is up.
- The teams should discuss their response with the larger group and determine if their response meets the exercise objectives as well as to identify opportunities for Business Continuity Plan documentation improvement.
- View and download Instant Exercises for Business Continuity Plans [PDF].
- Emergency Call List Drill:
- Conduct a physical test of the call list by dialing alternate telephone numbers listed for each employee in the continuity plan. Ask the person who answers to relay the following message to the employee – “this is a business continuity drill to test the emergency call list. Please email or return my call asap to let me know that you have received the message.
- Time how quickly the employee is able to call back to confirm receipt of message.
- Evacuation Drill:
- Employees participate in a physical evacuation of the primary work facility and gather at the designated evacuation assembly area, as documented in the continuity plan. A headcount is performed at the assembly point and staff should identify who is not present and where they might be during that time. (hint: can you check a person’s calendar remotely?)
- Teleworking Exercise:
- Schedule a time for select employees to work from home. Give them tasks to perform such as remote printing, forwarding telephone lines, accessing network folders and university applications.
- Staff Meeting:
- During a staff meeting, review details of the departmental BCP, review evacuation assembly areas, and familiarize staff with the University emergency information website and notification system.
The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) offers free downloadable exercises here.