Just about a year ago, before COVID lockdowns were even something we could comprehend, our friends at Conducttr were predicting the end of PowerPoint (or at least highlighting the opportunities from exercising in a different way) and more recently in December highlighted in a Business Continuity Institute webinar how remote Exercises can be delivered. The technology is certainly already in place but the client culture like many organisations was for ‘bums on seats’ at an Exercise. One positive outcome from COVID is that already in 2021 we are seeing a trend toward clients being very accepting of the new normal on four particular fronts:

  • their Crisis response is now well-rehearsed on a slow time basis for daily/weekly COVID related reviews and can operate well remotely (predominantly on Microsoft Teams)
  • other risk scenarios beyond COVID have had far less attention in planning and exercise terms and are now coming back into focus, especially in light of hybrid/remote ways of working for the medium term
  • the acceptance of remote support from consultants has brought financial efficiencies and also been enabled by an increase in trust that remote support can be sustained and dedicated without being in the building.
  • Fatigue has set in for some managers – relaxed that their COVID response has validated their crisis and business continuity response and less accepting of the nuances and challenges arising from other faster time scenarios.

For our part, knowing that we are ready to Exercise client’s arrangements in 2021 was the first order of business in January. We conducted a significant stress test of our Exercising capability, utilising a major Fire and Rescue Service Exercise to fully roll out TeamXP’s pseudo media including two-way social media, news clips, client’s simulation footage from the tower block and weather warnings that mimicked the actual forecasts in the Exercise week. With thanks to our Directing Staff of six (facilitators and observers) plus the client team, the snags and learning went into multiple pages and is summarised in these four points:

  • remote Exercises need to mimick the client’s own ways of working so using Teams, Zoom etc are key to the user experience. Many organisations have adopted Microsoft 365 tools and using these (and the fallbacks in case of an outage or cyber attack/denial of access) are key
  • spacing the Exercise with timed meetings across a working day allows time for players to take a breath, to reset between phases of the Exercise, to have the sidebar conversations to reflect and respond to the scenario all help to make the session feel more credible
  • practice makes perfect; little nuances in Zoom and Teams regarding recording, screen sharing, audio being heard by players requires rehearsal
  • use credible real-world inputs on the day: COVID as it is, weather warnings as they are and replicate the noise and hubbub of the client organisation; it helps to add to the dimension and challenge of the session.

For more information, see our helpful playbook, co-authored with Conducttr and available to download on our resource portal. We will also be sharing more on remote Event and Exercise Control capability in March.

Controlled Events is a corporate partner of the Business Continuity Institute, Member of Resilience First, Corporate sponsor of British APCO and Member of the Emergency Planning Society. Since 2011 we have been supporting organisations to establish resilience capabilities, establish readiness and with control and communications resources in place. See our resource portal for further resources and the Exercise guide (most of our resources are free).