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IMPORTANCE OF EXERCISES FOR BUILDING RESILIENCY


"We are going to have to deal with more of these extreme weather events in the near future; we need to be prepared for that and we need to do everything we can to combat the challenges of climate change." - Chris Hipkins, New Zealand Prime Minister, addressing the extreme weather.


Beginning 27th January 2023, regions across the upper North Island of New Zealand especially Auckland experienced heavy rainfall resulting in catastrophic floods which further resulted in extreme damage to properties, institutions, businesses, and people. 6000 to 8000 homes were in need of damage assessment. A total of 811 water-damaged cars had to be manually removed from roads, while 20 water-damaged buses were removed from service. It is estimated that the total insurance cost from the event could hit one billion dollars. When Kim Hill, an NZ broadcaster asked the Mayor of Auckland if his administration's level of inability to cope was terrifying, he exclaimed that it was terrifying and totally unprecedented. Read More.


This unfortunate incident brings us to the point of understanding the importance of having a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) and why business continuity exercises, which are part of a BCP shouldn’t be ignored or given any less importance. To be able to prepare for such scenarios and actions taken in the right way can minimize the impact and losses of all kinds to a great extent.

The only way we can anticipate such unexpected scenarios is by conducting exercises regularly, and ensuring different scenarios are considered.


Even though Auckland has been witnessing significant flooding events in the past two years, there was no proper preparedness, which could have cushioned the damages faced. Auckland suffered a huge impact which could have been avoided if businesses had a robust business continuity plan with robust exercises for various scenarios.

In this blog, we will be discussing the type of exercises, which can help you prepare for these situations.


CHALLENGE IN IMITATING A CRISIS

“Planning for emergencies cannot be considered reliable until it is exercised and has proved to be workable especially since false confidence may be placed in the integrity of a written plan.” – UK Government


A major challenge arises when an organization and its people are not fully committed to the purpose of performing such business continuity scenario exercises There are different motives and intentions with which people participate in these exercises. As we know real-life incidents require adequate time to resolve but in the case of an exercise, organizations can only devote less than a day or a couple of hours.


An imitation of a crisis can only be done when there is an equal interest vested in getting the proper outcome of the exercise.

Therefore, it is important to establish the right mindset, and the right set of exercises needs to be practiced.


Business Continuity scenario exercises are an effective way of assessing your response plans and making your business more resilient. There are certain points that must be kept in mind while running a business continuity scenario exercise.


1. Realistic approach - There must be a realistic approach for any response exercise to be successful. The scenarios simulated must be relevant to the risks faced by your organization.

2. Organized plans - The sole purpose of the business continuity scenario exercises is to check the effectiveness of the plan that you’ve already prepared. There needs to be a clear plan for further exercise to be carried out. You might need the support of other plans to handle a crisis effectively - such as a robust Business Continuity Plan, an Emergency Response Plan, and an Incident Management Plan.

3. Considering external stakeholders - Real-life crisis majorly requires organizations to reach out to external stakeholders and partners to respond to the incident as it develops. So, it is crucial to involve these external partners if possible or internal staff may need to play the part of those parties.


TYPES OF EXERCISES

"At the onset of an emergency, everyone's IQ goes immediately to '0'."- Winston Scott, Director of Florida Space Port


Essentially there are five main types of exercises. It is important to choose the appropriate exercise which can be cost-effective and can also help in achieving the objective.


Call tree exercises:

This process ensures everyone knows what to do when the emergency call tree is initiated, confirms the call tree procedure works according to plan, and validates that contact information is correct. The objective of the call tree is to build an effective communication model which can be used to notify specific individuals of the organizations and coordinate recovery if needed.  


Walkthrough exercise:

Walkthrough test/exercise is a process involving members of the Business Continuity (BC) team to carry out the recovery steps stipulated in the (Business Continuity Plan) BCP.

The objective of a walkthrough test is to evaluate the success of the BC plan, highlight design flaws and omissions to improve the BC plan. It also educates the Business Continuity team and the management on the BC plan, its drawbacks, strategies and implications.


Tabletop exercises:

One of the most cost-effective methods of exercise is a tabletop exercise. This acts as an efficient method of testing procedures, plans, and people. They provide players an opportunity to interact in a stress-free environment, across a table and understand each other’s roles and realize the responsibilities of other agencies involved. Participants get to know the people with whom they might need to interact or reach out during a crisis.


Simulation Exercises:

Simulation exercise simulates an emergency situation to which a simulated response is made. The objective of a simulation exercise is to analyze, validate and enhance response plans and preparedness toward all hazards and capabilities.

Specifically, simulation exercises aim to review and test interoperability between the plans and procedures.


Full-scale exercises:

It is a thorough exercise that tests all response strategies and procedures. It replicates a disaster by halting the real operations of the company or location in scope. This is an expensive test and has a significant risk of causing a major unplanned disruption.


These above exercises can help evaluate the success and failures to which management can refer and improve the overall learning process and take corrective actions to improve their preparedness during a real situation. Read More.

Finally, it is important to practice all exercises considering different scenarios to be ready for any eventuality.


However, it is also important to understand that Simulation and Full-scale exercises are difficult to conduct regularly. We can help you design the exercises with appropriate scenarios based on your plans, conduct them to validate the response plans and identify gaps to improve them.


CONCLUSION

In the end, it is worth emphasizing that it is every organization’s ultimate responsibility to ensure that all plans and procedures are in place and ensure that in the event of a crisis, the organization will be able to effectively respond, survive, and will continue to secure its place within the market.


Just think you conducted the exercise for only one scenario for instance an earthquake and suddenly you are hit by a cyclone for which you did not test scenarios. What will you do now?


Gorisco has a wide range of experts who are experienced in defining and designing various solutions to help organizations mitigate their risks and resolve their problems.

At Gorisco, our motto is 'Embedding Resilience' and we are committed to making the organizations and their workforce resilient. Reach out to us if you have any queries, clarifications, or need any support on your initiatives.


To read our other blogs, click here. More importantly, let us know if you liked them or not through your comments.






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