To support effective crisis preparedness, there should be a formally organised simulation at least once a year, and preferably more often. And there are proven ways to fix the problem that executives think that doing it once is enough, and to overcome the perception of 'training fatigue.'
1. Avoid repetitious scenarios about predictable operational crises such as accidents, infrastructure breakdown and disasters. Mix it up with realistic managerial scenarios, for example about a cybersecurity breach or real or perceived executive wrongdoing. Research shows these crises are typically high on the list of what’s most probable.
2. Involve different people in the exercise beyond just the core team, such as designated deputies or alternates. There is always a high chance that key players are absent when a real crisis strikes. It will also improve 'bench strength'.
3. Spring a surprise exercise rather than scheduling weeks in advance. Real crisis don’t fit neatly into any executive timetable. Will the activation systems work at night or at the weekend?
4. Try different types of simulation. Rather than just the traditional tabletop exercise, go for a full scale production with external resources such as people playing the role of emergency responders, angry residents or nosey reporters. Or a 'war room' exercise primarily to test the operability of the designated crisis command location and/or the backup location.
5. Instead of a hypothetical scenario, get the team to workshop a real-life crisis or near miss which has happened to another organisation, perhaps in the same area or same industry. Would you have made the same mistakes? What would you have done differently? What can you learn from the other organisation’s experience?
Crisis preparedness is a marathon not a sprint, and simulation exercises are essential for success. But they need to be fresh, relevant and above all, regular.