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The Manager’s Guide to Business Continuity Exercises: Testing Your Plan

Your challenge is to maintain a good and effective plan in the face of changing circumstances and limited budgets. If your situation is like that in most companies, you really cannot depend on the results of last year’s test or exercise of the plan. People tend to forget, lose confidence, lose interest, or even be replaced by other people who were not involved in your original planning. Jim Burtles explains:

“You cannot have any real confidence in your plans and procedures until they have been fully tested…Exercises are the only way we can be sure that the people will be able to interpret the plans and procedures correctly within the requisite timeframe under difficult circumstances.”

As you do your job in this constantly shifting context, Jim Burtles helps you to:

  • Differentiate between an “exercise” and a “test” – and see the value of each in your BC program.
  • Understand the different types of plans and identify the people who need to be involved in exercises and tests for each.
  • Use the “Five-Stage Growth Path” – from desktop to walkthrough to full-scale exercise — to conduct gradual testing, educate personnel, foster capability, and build confidence.
  • Create a variety of unusual scenario plot-lines that will keep up everyone’s interest.
  • Identify the eight main elements in developing and delivering a successful BC exercise.
  • Select and prepare a “delivery team” and a “response team” for your exercise.
  • Make sure everyone understands the “rules of engagement.”
  • Use the lessons learned from exercises and tests to audit, update, and maintain the plan.

You are well aware that a host of problems may crop up in any kind of company-wide project. These problems can range from basic logistics like time and place, to non-support from executives and managers, to absenteeism, to the weather, to participants forgetting their lines. Throughout the book, Burtles uses his decades of experience working with companies like yours to give you useful examples, case studies, and down-to-earth advice to help you handle the unexpected and work toward the results you are looking for.

2017, 100 pages. Jim Burtles (Author), Kristen Noakes-Fry (Editor).

ISBN 978-1-944480-33-2 (PDF), ISBN 978-1-944480-32-5 (EPUB)


About the Author

Jim Burtles KLJ, MMLJ, Hon FBCI is a well-known and respected leader within the business continuity profession. Now semi-retired and living in West London, he can look back and reflect upon the lessons learned from a wealth of experience gained in some 40 years of practice, spread across 4 continents and 24 countries.

He was granted Freedom of the City of London in 1992, received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001, and was awarded an Honorary Jim BurtlesFellowship by the Business Continuity Institute (BCI) in 2010. In 2005, he was granted the rank of a Knight of Grace in the Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem, an ancient and charitable order which cares for those afflicted with leprosy and similar debilitating diseases.

Working as an IBM field engineer, in the mid-70s he took on the role of a rescue engineer, helping customers recover their damaged systems in the wake of fires, floods, and bombings. This type of work was the beginning of what later became known as disaster recovery. During the 80s, he became an early pioneer of what was then the emerging business continuity profession. In 1994 he helped to found the Business Continuity Institute (BCI) and now serves on its Global Membership Council, representing the interests of the worldwide membership. His practical experience includes hands-on recovery work with victims of traumatic events such as explosions, earthquakes, storms, and fires. This includes technical assistance and support in 90-odd disasters, as well as advice and guidance for clients in over 200 emergency situations.

Over the past 40 years, Jim Burtles has introduced more than 3,500 people into the business continuity profession through formal training programs and has provided specialist training for another 800 or so through workshops covering specific subjects or skill areas. For several years he was a regular visiting lecturer at Coventry University.

Recent published works include Coping with a Crisis: A Counselor’s Guide to the Restabilization Process, 2011, Emergency Evacuation Planning for Your Workplace: From Chaos to Life-Saving Solutions, Rothstein Publishing 2014, and Principles and Practice of Business Continuity: Tools and Techniques, 2nd Edition, Rothstein Publishing, 2016.



Introduction: The Basics of Testing

0.1 Definitions
0.2 Element Testing
0.3 Exercising
0.4 A Delivery and Service Regime
0.4.1 Distribution
0.5 Conducting Tests and Exercises
0.5.1 Testing

Chapter 1: Plans and Their Purposes

1.1 Areas of Responsibility
1.1.1 Plan Types and Responsibilities
1.2 The Plan Development Process
1.2.1 Design and Structure Relation of Plan Type to Area of Responsibility Purposes of the Plan Types

Chapter 2: Getting Started with Testing Your Plans

2.1 Capability and Confidence: Educating Personnel
2.2 The Five-Stage Growth Path
2.2.1 Desktop Exercise
2.2.2 Walkthrough
2.2.3 Active Testing
2.2.4 Command Post Exercise
2.2.5 Full-Scale Exercise
2.2.6 Frequency of Testing
2.3 Testing Plans and Procedures
2.3.1 Disaster Recovery Testing
2.3.2 Systems Recovery Checklist
2.4 Elements of Exercise Development
2.5 Background: Objectives and Purpose
2.5.1 Stating the Purpose
2.6 Buildup
2.7 Developing the Script for the Exercise
2.7.1 The Script Process Deliverables Script Content Interrupts
2.8 Quality
2.8.1 Realism Methods for Achieving Realism
2.8.2 Scope

Chapter 3: Delivering a Successful Exercise

3.1 Exercise Coordination and Control
3.1.1 Potential Problems
3.1.2 Preparation and Practice
3.2 Safety: Isolation and Security
3.2.1 Creating Isolation
3.2.2 Setting Up Security
3.3 The Ideal Scene
3.4 Lessons: The Feedback Stage
3.4.1 Exercise Debrief
3.4.2 The Exercise Report
3.4.3 The Exercise Review
3.4.4 Full Sequence of Feedback
3.5 Tracking the History
3.5.1 Records and Reports Records Reports
3.5.2 Recording
3.6 Kick-Off
3.6.1 Announcement and Notice
3.6.2 Cautions
3.6.3 Rules of Engagement
3.6.4 Keeping It Going
3.7 Advanced Techniques
3.7.1 The Command and Control Exercise Scale
3.7.2 Cabaret Exercising
3.7.3 The Bang and Echo Program

Chapter 4: Auditing and Maintaining the Plan

4.1 Steps in Review Process
4.1.1 Facilities Facilities Testing
4.1.2 Resources Resources Testing Reviewing Dynamic and Stable Plan
4.1.3 Output Phase Status Reports and Activity Reports
4.1.4 After the Reports
4.2 Auditing
4.2.1 The Audit Process
4.2.2 Rules of Audit
4.2.3 Policy
4.2.4 Compliance
4.2.5 Finance
4.2.6 Investment
4.2.7 Expenditure
4.2.8 Prudence
4.2.9 Purposes
4.2.10 Achievement
4.2.11 Claims
4.2.12 Concerns
4.3 Completing the Audit
4.3.1 Audit Checklists
4.3.2 Checklist Construction
4.3.3 Audit Reports


Excerpt from Preface

The importance of exercising your BC plans and testing the associated arrangements and resources cannot be overstated. This is the most important aspect of preparing to deal with the inevitable disruptive incident which will eventually occur. If you and your organization are properly prepared the incident may pass by almost unnoticed, simply because your people knew what to do and how to do it.

On the other hand, without any previous practice, a relatively minor interruption can easily escalate to dramatic proportions with disastrous consequences – simply because they didn’t perform very well. The old saying “practice makes perfect” has a lot of truth in it, especially when confronting the unusual or the unexpected. You and your organization will gain more benefit from exercising and testing than from any other aspect of your BC program. It is the only element in the whole program which can directly affect people’s reactions and unconscious behaviors.

In fact, it could be said that exercising and testing is the only part of the BC suite of disciplines that is essential. One might cope quite well without any plans or other preparations – providing that one could safely rely upon the effective competence of the individuals concerned. However, such a level of competence can come only from the experience gained in regular exercises and tests.

In this book, we will be looking at how you can make this all happen smoothly and effectively, using tools and techniques which have been derived from many years of practical experience. Read on, dear reader, read on.

Continuity Insights

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