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Disaster Recovery Tabletop Exercises Help Close Gaps Before a Disaster

Michael Henry

From a Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery (BC/DR) perspective, one of the most effective means of ensuring a strong, actionable plan is to regularly conduct tabletop exercise. A tabletop test or exercise is a scheduled event that brings together key personnel who have been assigned to important management responsibilities in order to talk through a simulated disaster scenario.

The main goal is to look for potential risks and failures and drill them down into your BC/DR plan during a non-emergency period. That way, you’re not finding out too late that you have huge gaps or you missed something in planning.

Disaster Recovery is a Partnership

As a BC/DR print and mail provider, Mail-Gard regularly conducts exercises addressing our clients’ recovery requirements so we can become familiar with their work and address problem areas before a recovery event presents itself. But no matter how much we practice, the reality of a recovery event (whether it’s a disaster or an operational recovery) is always a little different than what was practiced, so it’s important to engage all stakeholders.

The truth is that a successful recovery operation depends on a great working partnership between the client and the BC/DR provider. While Mail-Gard may assume responsibility for a client’s mail production during a disaster, the BC/DR team on the client side plays an essential role in ensuring a successful recovery, and we can’t do it without them. This means the client has to be running internal DR exercises themselves so they are ready to do their part during a recovery event.

Take Stock of Your Plan with a Tabletop Exercise

When was the last time your company conducted an internal tabletop exercise? Were the right people there? What was the timeframe being tested for the recovery event? Did you test different scenarios with each tabletop exercise? Mail-Gard has been recovering clients in need for more than 23 years, so we’ve seen a number of client issues that can impact our ability to get the client mail out the door.

Here are some of the big ones you can prevent by ensuring their inclusion in testing:

  • Key client personnel for all shifts: If you’re transmitting files overnight, then you need to have overnight staff, technical, and production, available for assistance, and they need to be part of the tabletop tests.
  • Ongoing materials management: You may have arranged for materials to be shipped in the initial recovery phase, but what if your recovery event lasts longer than expected? Have you considered ongoing inventory management and needed re-shipments?
  • Cross-training gaps: What happens if a key member of the BC/DR team is not available during an actual recovery event? Have their responsibilities been cross-trained, and has that person been part of the tabletop exercises? No critical recovery role should hinge on one person. People leave companies, go on vacation, or sometimes they’re dealing with personal emergencies at the same time as a work disaster, so you can’t afford to rely too heavily on any one person.

If you’ve never conducted a tabletop exercise and are interested in trying one out, we offer several checklists and resources that can help set you on a clear path to define your testing goals so you’re prepared in the event that a disaster hits your business. Contact me here to learn more.

link https://www.iwco.com/blog/2019/11/15/disaster-recovery-tabletop-exercise/
Michael Henry

Author

Michael Henry

Vice President, Pennsylvania and Mail-Gard® Manufacturing Operations with more than 30 years of experience in direct mail. Specializes in leading and directing operations teams by simplifying, staying focused, and being relentless. Proud to be part of an organization that cares about its people. Longtime Philadelphia Eagles season ticket holder who also loves the Phillies and Flyers, being near the water, and coaching youth sports activities.

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