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How Incident Management Exercises Become Reality

Picture this: you’re in a three-hour training and exercise workshop with your colleagues around Crisis Management preparations and best practice. You’ve been learning everything about what your organisation can do now to be best prepared. During the latter half of the workshop, you begin your scenario exercise.

This exercise involves the whole class where both the CMT and the day-to-day staff go through a makeshift event.

Your course facilitator briefs everyone on the exercise but reminds them that “if the alarms or your phones do go off, it’s not me, it’s a real event”. Everything in your exercise is managed by the facilitator.

But then, Karren’s phone starts ringing. She answers and realizes that it’s a situation eerily like that of the exercise. “Brad, I’ve got a call here regarding some protesting down in our lobby, is this your people?”

“No Karren, it’s not”.

Three minutes later, the CMT has left and the room has become somewhat deserted. A real event has occurred during a session.

For most organisations, probably yours’s included, this period of the year is always busy, the “crazy season” which runs from October to December. This year our numbers are exceptionally larger than usual.

70 training and exercise sessions to be exact. However, that’s not the most interesting statistic we would like to share; it’s the number of sessions that have been interrupted due to a real event. Of all those session’s, 10% of them had to be suspended or cancelled due to a real event impacting the organisation.

That’s too much of a coincidence

In Australia alone, we’ve had five recorded events occur during our sessions in the past two months. In New Zealand, it happened only a few week ago during our 16 hours of training.

Thinking that it won’t happen to me or what are the chances implies you’ve not taken the eventuality seriously. It’s not a matter of if but when and it can even happen during the training of it.

Our exercises are designed to be extremely realistic and life-like. It’s not uncommon for the Team Leader to turn around and ask the trainer, “is this you guys?” This is what we would commonly label a ‘No-duff’ situation. A code word we would use to identify a real event that has occurred outside of exercise conditions.

We have seen disruptions to a training session with our clients across several different industries:

  • Local Council – Gas leak building evacuation.
  • Logistics – Severe weather event.
  • Education – Gas leak.
  • Local Government – Cyber event & Protests on campus.
  • Cyber-attack that stopped production for a manufacturing company.
  • Suspected MERS outbreak in a University.
  • Social media accusation of abuse against a school during the Royal Commission.

What can happen?

These events re-enforce and drive home the importance of building your resilience capabilities. They are not going away while the type and diversity are increasing every year to organisations.

So, what’s an example of when this occurred? How did we and the organisation react?

A specific event comes to mind recently where an office block was the potential target for a major protest. The team were aware of this as news had arisen days before on the attempted gathering. There was already buzz in the session.

Upon arrival, it was clear something was bubbling up and we all noticed a few aggravated persons making an appearance in the lobby.

A threat was made that they would return with more people, right when our training session was on.

Facts started to immerge that the specific initiator of this protest was known for building and promoting these protests. They were also known to bring (most likely fake) dynamite. So, as you can imagine, we were on edge a little during the exercise.

Luckily in this situation, the main initiator did return with no ‘dynamite’ and to the applause of zero followers.

Another interesting event happened only a few weeks after. The team RiskLogic was training consisted of a very credible amount of crisis management professionals (including emergency procedures, a regional incident management team and a corporate crisis management team).

The situation that unfolded during our session was another serious one. A mentally unstable person was threatening the location occupied by staff with firearms. The area locked down, police called, and the CMP was put into action.

The aspect that makes these so valuable for RiskLogic and our clients, is that we can get involved and help them through the process of managing the event, in real time. Not only do we prove our worth during a real event, we’re able to provide some world-class feedback on how we thought they handled it.

Yes, we’re there to run the training and scenarios, but if a real-life event occurs – you can sure believe we’ll be there helping you get through it too.

After this case, we were able to debrief the situation which is incredibly valuable for all involved. Our module, only five minutes before, was around whether this organisation knew what worked for them, what doesn’t, what team structures and processes have proved to be effective and what hasn’t. Having a live example was a great opportunity to go through some of these aspects.

Where does the value come in?

If you put business continuity professionals into a real-life situation, you can be confident he or she will find the value out of being there during the event.

You can learn a lot about your organisation when everyone is in action mode…or in some cases panic mode.

The organisation may be strong in the Emergency Management sector, but during the above event, it was the Incident Management and Crisis Management that really needed to flow (which needed a lot of work).

RiskLogic is able to put our solutions and technology to the test, like the dashboards CQCommand have. We create visual boards and have the facts mapped out while it’s happening.

We were able to identify trigger points and how these can escalate from Emergency Management to Incident and Crisis Management. All of this while the event unfolds.

Value comes in from learning from the experience and practicing what we’ve taught you. When certain elements haven’t worked, we can apply a post-event analysis on this and get straight into how this can be sorted.

Embrace an event

If this happens to you in a training session, you might be lucky and have a Risklogic facilitator on hand to assist and guide you through the real event, just as some of our Senior Managers have been doing lately.

In most scenarios, your choices are to continue the exercise and monitor or, suspend the exercise and deal with the real event. Regardless, if it does occur you should be using this as a great time to really test the team, understand the holes that need filling in and, most importantly, making sure you congratulate them on the right steps the team would have taken.

On the plus side, you already have your team assembled and they should be in the right head space.

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