UW Emergency Management

December 18, 2018

Build Your Plan in a Year: Month 12

This post is part of a 2018 series breaking the process of business continuity planning for University of Washington departments into monthly tasks to help build a plan in a year.

At this point your plant has been drafted and reviewed by UWEM. Maybe you’ve even already made changes to address gaps. What more could we need to do? Exercise! Exercises allow us to practice decision making, consider issues we haven’t before and see places where our planning may fall short–all without the pressure or risk of a real event.

Build Your Plan in A Year (Month 12): Exercise and Adjust

Step one: Make an exercise plan (1 Hour)

The type and style of exercise you have depends on how mature your plan is and how ready the members of your team are to implement it. It is the role of UW’s BARC manager to write and facilitate your exercise, but it is important you or a member of your team play a part in the planning to process. It’s how we make sure the exercise actually stretches you, without stressing you. Some examples of exercises:

  • A facilitated walk through where everyone named in the plan reads through it together and discusses whether the process outlined can be implemented or if more detail/process if needed. This is used most in departments where the plan was written by one person and there hasn’t been significant input from others.
  • An exercise based around a scenario of choice where decision makers discuss their actions and concerns, and we visit the plan to see if those priorities and decisions are addressed or should be worked into the plan.
  • An exercise based on a process outlined in your plan—for example, practicing the process of locating new space for both short and long term disruptions.

For this first step, set up a meeting with Megan Levy, BARC manager, to discuss your plan, and what you would like to test.

Step two: Hold your exercise (3 hours)

Everyone named in your plan or who will have a responsibility under the plan should attend the exercise. The BARC manager will facilitate the discussion, allowing the participants to drive discussion and bringing them back around as we stray off course or complete a topic.

It may not take three hours–that depends on the scope and type of exercise–but this is a good block of time to hold as you navigate calendars.

Step three: Address your gaps (1 hour)

Every exercise is going to identify gaps in your plan or the teams knowledge. If it doesn’t, it wasn’t a very good exercise.

Approximately 2-3 weeks after your exercise, you will receive an After Action Report that details the decisions, strengths and areas for improvement in your plan. It is not expected that you’ll dive straight back into your plan, but take this time to review the report and make a plan for training, edits, or adjustments as needed. You won’t have another exercise for two years. Take that time to make improvements.

What’s next?

There is no such thing as a “finished” continuity plan, because they are always evolving and growing–both as a reflection of how your critical functions change and because each time you return to your plan you will find new questions and nuances you hadn’t considered before. However, now that you’ve been through this year long process, you have a compliant plan–and should the “big one” hit this week, you will know your first steps and priorities.

Moving forward you will update your plan at least once each year. The system will prompt you to make an update if 12 months have passed, but it’s recommended you plan continuity updates as part of on-boarding, off-boarding, and any time your processes or structure changes.

Every other year we will come back together for an exercise, building on the work done before–if it was a simple walk through, maybe we will use a scenario; if it was a department-centric scenario, maybe we try cross-department discussion.

Though it’s not finished, congratulations: This first year of developing, reviewing and testing your plan is the hardest part.