How to Test Your Crisis Plan

Crisis-plan-testYou finally got around to building a new crisis preparedness plan.

One built for the digital age.

The plan is designed to enable a quick and effective response to emerging threats.

But how do you know it will work when the worst happens?

Waiting until your business and reputation are on the line in a dangerous situation is not the time to find out that your plan has weaknesses and omissions.

Now would be a good time to organize a training workshop for your crisis team built around one of the crisis scenarios in your plan.

The scenario might be a data-leak, or a marketing campaign that is causing offense and creating bad publicity, or a serious product malfunction.

The crisis team must know they are in a training exercise (you would never be able to schedule their time otherwise!).

However, they should know nothing about the content of the workshop or the scenario that you’ve chosen for the exercise.

The team could gather on one venue (with multiple rooms for breakouts) or remain at their desks and work together remotely as they would when a real situation impacts the organization.

There also should be observers whose role is to assess and evaluate the team’s performance and how well the crisis plan stands up to the test.

The crisis scenario is presented to the team in stages – they never know what is coming next.

Inevitably the opening scenario is vague.

Something disturbing is happening, details are scarce and no-one yet knows how serious it is or what the impact might be.

Learn More About Digital Crisis Management in Using Technology to Implement and  Activate Your Crisis Management Plan

If the scenario is based around a data-leak, it might be that an unencrypted laptop has been lost stolen – or that IT is reporting that an intruder has hacked into the organization’s systems.

At each stage, the crisis team is asked to respond as they would in a real situation, using the tools, templates, processes and resources contained within the crisis plan.

Hopefully, you’ve moved on from storing the plan in a 3-ring binder, flash drive or clunky internet.

Your plan is instantly accessible and actionable via a digital crisis management platform.

If so, during the crisis training workshop, the team should work within the mobile platform using features such as the incident reporting, conference call bridge, polling, secure chat rooms and shared task-lists to collaborate, communicate and collectively manage the crisis.

When the crisis team has responded to the opening scenario with its recommended actions and communications, they are presented with a second level of the emerging situation which inevitably exposes more detail of a worsening situation involving a widening circle of stakeholders.

Depending on the time available, the team will face several levels of the escalating scenario during the training workshop.

If resources allow, the test is made even more realistic with mock TV broadcasts, media reports, social media posts and colleagues role playing reporters, emergency services and regulatory authorities.

At the end of the workshop, the team will be exhausted.

Inevitably they quickly begin to take the exercise seriously, responding and suffering the stress of making decisions as if the crisis was genuine.

However, at its conclusion you will have a really good idea of how well your crisis plan stood up to its test.

Did it give the team all they needed to respond? What were the gaps? Is their other information and resources they should have had access to? How well did the team deploy the tools on the digital crisis management platform?

It is a comfort to have answers to all these questions well before you face the fast-moving storm of a real crisis in the digital age.