Adding a touch of reality to your crisis simulation exercises


“How can I make this more realistic?” was the question I kept asking myself when designing paper-based crisis simulation exercises in the early years of my career.

The answer was to create pressure with “injects” in the form of ongoing twists and turns in the simulation exercise, unexpected demands on participants through phone calls and emails, and a barrage of media queries and simulated media stories and news updates.

Today, the world works differently. More companies face criticism via digital channels which can be overwhelming to manage. Practising how to manage this is hard when your crisis simulation is based entirely on paper.

Having a crisis plans is vital, which is why 72% of New Zealand organisations have one. But, only half test it annually and over a quarter don’t include social or digital channels in their testing.

To fill this gap, SenateSHJ has licensed an online crisis simulation tool that brings a touch of reality to the situation.

The tool allows participants to interact directly in real time with incoming emails, phone calls, breaking news, chat messages, and social media via a secure virtual desktop.

Using the tool we can help participants to:

  • Bring together teams who are geographically and functionally dispersed, so they can find out how they work together under real-life pressure
  • Standardise scenario delivery so participants’ results can be compared
  • Allow for recording and review of actions and decisions
  • Run the simulation at your usual place of work, effectively replicating a real-life crisis.

In a recent exercise, we tested both the client’s communications team and their IT teams’ ability to manage a data breach.

We threw in emails, streams of tweets and Facebook posts, and some ‘live’ TV and radio articles. The client’s reaction? “It felt like the real thing,” they said. “It was far more realistic than looking at pieces of paper.”

If you think it’s time your team undertook a genuine crisis test, call us to talk about building a scenario that will feel like the real thing.