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The start and finish of crisis simulations

The day of your crisis simulation has finally arrived. The scenario is complete, news videos have been recorded, social media streams are primed and the simulated crisis is ready to be unleashed.

For many people taking part, this will be their first experience of a crisis simulation. Naturally, some will be nervous or have pressing work they think more important. A slick, seamless and good-humoured start is the best way to grab and motivate participants.

It should be immediately obvious that those who devised and planned the exercise are in control of the event, are keen to make it a success and believe it will benefit all concerned. It should be stressed the exercise is not a test of individuals, but rather an opportunity to test plans and procedures.

There is an element of theatre to simulations, so when the curtain goes up everyone needs to be ready and the technology must work.

If the exercise gets off to a brisk and engaging start many of the player’s fears will evaporate as they become involved in the event and find themselves enjoying it.

And when it’s over…
When the exercise finishes don’t let players disperse immediately. This is the moment to capture key learnings while they are still fresh in people’s minds. A debrief should be planned ahead of time.

Ideally it should start as soon as the exercise is over and last no longer than 30 minutes.

The debrief will typically be chaired by the Exercise Director, who should ask these questions:

  1. What went well and why?
  2. What didn’t go well?
  3. What needs to be improved?

This ensures all the participants are giving their feedback in the same way and limiting it to three points concentrates the mind and keeps discussions relatively short. The outcomes from the debrief will form part of the final report, so key issues must be captured as the discussion takes place.