27 Scenarios for Business Continuity Exercises

We’re often asked for a list of scenarios that might be used for business continuity exercises and rehearsals.

We’re going to oblige below, BUT we’d like to explain why we think that it’s literally the last thing you should think about when planning a rehearsal.

A rehearsal is not about the scenario.  As a continuity planner you probably know this already.  Yet we all worry about finding the ‘perfect’ scenario to challenge our plans and out delegates in a robust manner.  We often feel we’re only as good as our last business continuity exercise, since these are often our ‘public face’ to our organisations.

However a well trained continuity planner (or someone who’s done our free course) will tell you clearly that the scenario always comes last.  Before you know what your scenario might be, you need to know:

  • Which plan(s) is being tested?
  • Who is participating in the exercise?
  • What are the weak points of the plan?
  • What risks are highlighted for the plan(s) in question?
  • When was the last time this plan was rehearsed?
  • When was the last time these people were rehearsed?
  • How exposed do you want the delegates to feel?
  • How are you going to capture learning?
  • How will you ensure the delegates are open to learning and taking responsibility for actions identified during the rehearsal?
  • What facilities do you have in the room?
  • How long can you reasonably book the delegates for?
  • How many times do you need to rehearse this plan per year?
These are just some of the questions we’d ask in order to define the aims of the rehearsal.  Only when you know your aims can you decide what you want to cover in the rehearsal; and only when you know that can you decide on a scenario.
Say, for example, you have 20 delegates who are relatively new to the company rehearing a well established plan that covers a call centre that’s on a flood plain?  When you know that information you might decide that covering the basics of the plan during a flood situation might be more useful to everyone than coming up with a new and elaborate plot.  On the other hand, if you have a crisis team who’ve rehearsed together many times with a plan they know well but which hasn’t been robustly challenged for a year or two, you may decide you need to come up with something novel to get them thinking about the flexibility of the arrangements that they may have started taking for granted.
Does that help explain why we think the scenario comes last, every time?
That said, we’re constantly noting nice little plot devices for our rehearsals to make them interesting and fun.  And here’s a little list of scenarios you might like to use if you’re rehearsing plans for lack of access to a building, lack of people or lack of infrastructure, or if you’re rehearsing your crisis management team.
Rehearsing Lack of Access
  • Power failure
  • Road closure
  • Fire
  • Flood
  • Bomb
  • Water outage
  • Gas leak
  • Bomb alert
  • Structural damage
  • Area evacuation
Rehearsing Lack of People
  • Contagious illness
  • Strike
  • Transport outage
  • Building closure (see ‘lack of access’ column)
  • Using recovery location
Rehearsing Lack of Infrastructure

  • Power outage
  • Gas outage
  • Water outage
  • IT network outage
  • Loss of IT files
  • Technology connection outage
  • Loss of data
  • System application outage
  • Telecoms outage
  • Flood
Rehearsing Crisis Management Response
  • Anything in any other list!
  • Threats – e.g. bomb, cyber attack, blackmail, data theft or loss.
Do share your own tips and lists in the comment section below!
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