Summary: A Test Design Team is responsible for designing the test exercise scenario. These individuals should have in-depth knowledge of the organization and departments being tested, and are able to produce "credible scenarios" and yet stay on course with the test plan. Typically, the Disaster Recovery Coordinator serves in the capacity of the Test Design Team.
This is the second in a two-part series on the need to regularly test your emergency, continuity, and disaster recovery plans. The first part in the series can be found here.
Test Exercise Roles & Responsibilities
Test Design Team
A Test Design Team is responsible for designing the test exercise scenario. These individuals should have in-depth knowledge of the organization and departments being tested, and are able to produce "credible scenarios" and yet stay on course with the test plan. Typically, the Disaster Recovery Coordinator serves in the capacity of the Test Design Team.
Assistance from a third party to help design your exercise can provide an independent evaluation of your exercise. Firestorm® acts as the Design Team for many organizations' test exercises.
The Simulation Team
The Simulation Team will guide the participants through the test or simulation.
Simulation Team Guidelines:
The facilitator is responsible for central coordination of the test exercise. Firestorm acts as the facilitator for many organizations’ test exercises. The facilitator is responsible for overseeing the accomplishment of targeted objectives, and conducting a briefing following the exercise. Facilitators should be knowledgeable in the execution of the plan(s) being tested. The facilitator provides overall guidance and coordinates with the participants and should assure that:
The Test Assistant
A Test Assistant may be assigned to assist the facilitator throughout the testing process. Evaluators should be very knowledgeable of the plan(s) being tested. Evaluators should be assessing command, control, coordination, and communication activities, and should be observant and objective. The role of a test evaluator is to:
Test participants should be familiar with their specific roles within the plan(s) that are being tested. They should be specifically named as team members within the plan (s).
Messages drive the test, expose unresolved issues, and address the objectives. They add information to describe the disaster environment and/or situation. Messages stimulate action by the participants. Messages can escalate an initial (primary) problem and create secondary or tertiary problems. Example:
Messages should influence action at least one of four ways:
Message component examples:
Following completion of the test, the facilitator should review the test plan with the participants and answers questions. If possible, audio-visuals should be used to add realism. The best time for a debriefing is immediately after the test. The test facilitator should facilitate the session. The purpose of the debriefing is to:
The test facilitator should incorporate debriefing comments, evaluator observations and participant evaluations into a concise report of the event including lessons learned, issues that need correction, next steps, and additional training needed.
Test exercise analyses should include:
Summary: Keys To A Successful Test Exercise
Having a clear objective, management support, a realistic scenario, and active involvement are key to an exercise success. The updates and plan changes based on the lessons learned in the exercise must be made and shared. In evaluating a plan(s), look for:
Jim Satterfield, President and COO of Firestorm® Solutions, LLC, is a nationally recognized expert on crisis management, threat assessment, disaster preparedness, and business continuity planning. He has extensive public and private company experience in the identification of problems and designing solutions.
More articles, videos, and podcasts by Jim Satterfield:
Test Your Emergency, Continuity, and Disaster Recovery Plans Regularly, Part 1
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