The largest simulation exercise in which Crisis Solutions had ever been involved was about to get underway. We were in a glass-fronted room in a tower block overlooking London with close to one hundred people. This was the exercise command centre and the hub of what was about to unfold.
A young man in a dark business suit rose to his feet and said: “We go live in ten seconds”. A hush descended on the room, which was abruptly broken by the insistent music of a simulated TV news bulletin. All over London, elsewhere in the UK and across the world, more than 80 corporate crisis teams were simultaneously seeing the same streamed news and the exercise was under way.
The purpose of the exercise was nothing less than to test the financial sector’s resilience to a coordinated terror attack. Given the government departments and major international companies involved it was pretty clear success was the only acceptable outcome. To add to the pressure, international observers were also in attendance so the stakes were high.
The Internet was used to create a multi-channel interactive experience for the participants so that, during the course of the exercise more than 2000 players from more than 80 companies were able to rehearse their roles in a highly realistic environment. A series of live websites were created to give all the players the same information at exactly the same time representing news media, financial data, and information from the emergency services.
During the three-hour exercise, the websites handled more than 15 gigabytes of data on more than 200 pages. The financial data site contained 480 constantly changing graphs and there was a page update every two minutes. There were also around 3,500 downloads of individual video files from the news site.
By the end of the exercise all the corporate teams had had the opportunity to rehearse their roles and were better able to understand how their planned responses influenced, or were influenced by, others’ actions. Participant feedback was highly positive and the post-exercise report identified valuable lessons that were subsequently embedded within the exercise participant community so that resilience was enhanced.