Planning a Crisis Simulation Exercise

On June 16, 2014

The first workshop of the World Conference on Disaster Management was disappointing. However, there were still some learnings, especially from the discussion and comments among participants. Some interesting points include:

Challenges faced by people running simulation exercises include:

  • Senior management failing to buy in and not attending. This poses problems when an actual crisis does hit because they are not trained in the organisation’s systems. In some cases, senior management become a hindrance rather than as asset as they try to exert their influence during the crisis response.
  • Determining the goals and objectives of the simulation exercise before starting the planning process. It is easy to make an exercise too broad and try to achieve too much in one exercise, ultimately failing to achieve anything.
  • When the exercise is completed, people are keen to forget and don’t follow up on the recommendations and key learnings.

A good simulation exercise includes:

  • Setting clear goals and objectives set in advance.
  • Linking the exercise to the crisis management systems that an organisation has in place.
  • Preparing a list of key stakeholders in advance. This includes listing all the stakeholders likely to be involved, thinking about what you would want from them in the event of a crisis and weaving this into the exercise.
  • Making sure the exercise is not stand alone but integrated into the whole crisis management framework.
  • Making sure people who aren’t involved in the exercise are still aware that it is happening, to avoid the exercise becoming a crisis in itself.

If done well, key benefits from a simulation exercise include:

  • Understanding the gaps in the crisis response system.
  • Ensuring the response team members have an understanding of their responsibilities.
  • Practicing the collection, analysis and distribution of information in a timely manner.
  • Testing communication flows and identification of key stakeholders including vulnerable people.
  • Building the confidence of the response team to manage a real crisis.
  • Being well prepared can provide a competitive advantage for an organisation.

A key point made by several people was that a simulation exercise should not be standalone but integrated into an overarching crisis management program.