Sample Tabletop Exercise Natural Disaster Scenario

Sample  Tabletop  Exercise   Natural  Disaster  Scenario   Scenario  #X  –  Catastrophic  Building  Fire   Facilitator’s  Guide   Scenario  Summary

Background:    It  is  9:30  am  on  the  morning  of  January  17th.  It  is  27  degrees  outside.

The  Event:  The  extreme  cold  has  forced  the  boilers  running  the  heat  system  to  stress.    A  spark   in  the  boiler  room  ignited  some  leaves  and  paper  that  had  not  been  cleaned  up.  Pallets  stored   nearby  added  fuel  to  the  smaller  fire  and  the  fire  began  to  gain  momentum.    For  some   unknown  reason,  the  fire  alarm  did  not  go  off,  and  the  fire  was  not  discovered  until  an   employee  smelled  smoke  and  went  to  investigate.  She  tried  to  open  the  door  to  the  room,  but   the  doorknob  was  too  hot,  so  she  ran  back  to  her  office  to  call  9-­‐1-­‐1.  Another  employee  pulled   the  fire  alarm  and  it  did  not  sound.  Minutes  later  the  employees  were  evacuated  by  calling,   emailing  and  direct  notification.  The  smell  of  smoke  also  ensured  that  everyone  had  a  sense  of   urgency.    The  entire  building  was  evacuated  in  approximately  15  minutes  with  no  injuries.

The  Results:  The  Fire  Department  arrived  4.5  minutes  after  the  9-­‐1-­‐1  call.  The  sprinkler  system   worked  as  intended,  but  the  fire,  water  and  smoke  damage  destroyed  all  building  contents.   The  building  owner  predicts  that  it  will  take  9  months  to  a  year  to  make  the  building  habitable   again.

To  the  Facilitator:  The  goal  of  this  exercise  is  to  recreate  the  disruption  caused  by  a   catastrophic  fire  in  an  older,  multi-­‐story  structure.  The  participants  will  be  required  to  discuss   critical  notifications  and  collaborations  required  to  address  the  damaging  effects  of  this  disaster   in  an  organized  and  effective  manner.  Key  Incident  Command  System  (ICS)  elements  should  be   included  as  a  part  of  the  participants’  response  discussions.

Intended  Participants:  This  exercise  may  be  run  for  a  government  agency  or  private  industry.

You  may  wish  to  consider  inviting:   Key  Agency  Staff:

– Leadership   – Facilities   – Human  Resources   – Evacuation  Planner   – Floor  Captains   – Information  Tech   – Incident  Response


Building  Owner:   – Property  Manager

Local  Officials:   – Local  Emergency

Management   – Fire  Department

Running  the  Exercise

Step  1:  Decide  on  a  facility,  training  date,  training  duration,  and  who  to  invite.  Invite   participants  well  in  advance  of  your  training  date  to  ensure  that  you  can  achieve  your   attendance  goal.  Allow  adequate  time  for  planning  and  be  sure  to  prepare  all  materials  (digital   and  hard  copy)  ahead  of  time.

Step  2:  Depending  on  who  is  participating  in  this  exercise,  it  may  be  a  good  idea  to  have  the   participants  go  around  the  table  and  introduce  themselves  (name,  utility,  and  job  title)  so  that   everyone  will  understand  where  any  particular  individual  is  “coming  from”  during  the  ensuing   discussions.

Step  3:  Explain  to  the  participants  that  they  are  participating  in  a  simple  tabletop  exercise.   There  is  no  time  pressure,  and  that  they  are  there  as  a  group  to  discuss  their  roles  and   responses  to  an  emergency  incident.  There  are  no  right  or  wrong  answers,  but  the  group  should   be  able  to  discuss  problem  or  “gray”  areas  that  may  arise  during  the  exercise.  Let  them  know   this  is  good,  as  the  exercise  should  stimulate  discussion  that  may  lead  to  changes  in  the  way  the   participants  conduct  their  daily  and  emergency  operations.  Also  inform  the  participants  that,   although  the  incident  is  set  in  fictional  Zenith  City,  it  is  okay  to  talk  about  the  incident  from   their  own  experiences  or  in  the  context  of  their  own  protocols  and  procedures.  It  will  make  the   exercise  more  beneficial  for  the  participants  if  they  exchange  emergency  response  practices,   protocols,  and  procedures  that  they  may  currently  use.

Step  4:  Be  sure  to  give  the  background  PowerPoint®  presentation  to  introduce  the  participants   to  the  agency  COOP  Plan  and  to  set  the  stage  for  the  incident.  The  exercise  goals  will  also  be   presented  as  a  part  of  this  presentation.

Step  5:  Begin  the  exercise  by  delivering  the  first  inject.  Then,  let  the  discussion  evolve  naturally   on  its  own  after  giving  the  participants  the  first  inject.  If  necessary,  to  get  the  discussion   started,  simply  “nudge”  the  participants  with  a  non-­‐leading  question  such  as:  What  would  you   do  in  this  situation?  You  could  direct  this  question  to  the  group  at  large,  or,  in  a  group  where  no   one  is  willing  to  break  the  ice,  to  a  particular  individual,  preferably  one  that  you  know  serves  in   a  leadership  role  during  the  course  of  their  daily  activities.  You  can  also  refer  to  the  discussion   points  in  the  Facilitator’s  Guide  to  help  jump-­‐start  discussion.

Step  6:  Be  sure  to  take  notes  during  the  discussions.  These  notes  will  form  the  basis  of  your   after-­‐action  review.  Note  problem  or  gray  areas  that  need  more  research  prior  to  resolution   and  who  will  perform  this  research  or  any  action  items  decided  upon  by  the  participants.  The   notes  you  take  will  ensure  that  a  summary  of  the  take-­‐home  points,  action  items  or  messages   will  not  be  forgotten  or  overlooked.  You  may  wish  to  write  these  points,  action  items  and   messages  on  a  flip  chart  at  the  end  of  the  exercise.

Step  7:  Perform  an  after-­‐action  review.  You  may  wish  to  give  the  participants  a  10  to  15  minute   break  at  the  end  of  the  exercise  to  give  yourself  time  to  compose  your  notes  prior  to

conducting  the  review.  Be  sure  to  review  the  exercise  objectives  again  to  determine  if  the   objectives  were  met  by  the  exercise.  Allow  the  participants  to  give  their  feedback  on  the   exercise  and  the  conclusions  or  decisions  that  they  arrived  at  during  the  exercise.  The  entire   tabletop  exercise,  including  the  after-­‐action  review,  can  typically  be  conducted  in  a  two  to  four   hour  session.  This  time  range  is  flexible  and  is  dependent  on  the  amount  of  discussion   generated  during  the  exercise.  The  pace  of  the  exercise  is  controlled  entirely  by  the  facilitator,   who  manages  the  discussions  and  presents  the  injects.

Discussion  Points   Remember,  it  is  January  in  Topeka  and  it  is  very  cold  outside.  The  fire  progressed  very  quickly   and  very  little  time  was  used  to  remove  items  from  the  building.  Exercise  participants  are   provided  a  map  of  the  building  and  the  designated  evacuation  zones  and  plan.

Inject  #1  (note that an inject may also be called a problem statement) (09:45  hrs.,  January  17):  It  is  thought  that  all  personnel  were  safely  evacuated  from  the   building.    Several  staff  are  unaccounted  for.   Points  that  could  be  covered  in  the  discussion  of  Inject  #1  include:

● Discuss  what  type  of  command  structure  should  be  established.  What  is  the command  structure  needed  to  deal  with  this  incident?

● What  is  the  process  to  deal  with  the  personnel  who  are  unaccounted  for? ● What  mitigation  factors  are  in  place  to  deal  with  this  type  of  disaster? ● What  actions  would  be  taken  at  this  point?

Inject  #2  (10:15  hrs.,  January  17):  Agency  staff  determined  that  the  people  who  were   unaccounted  for  had  left  the  building  for  coffee.  Fire  officials  have  announced  that  the  building   will  not  be  accessible  until  at  least  the  next  day.

Points  that  could  be  covered  in  the  discussion  of  Inject  #2  include:

● What  do  you  tell  the  employees? ● What  are  agency  leaders  doing? ● How  are  you  communicating  with  employees  that  are  not  at  the  rally  point? ● What  outside  notifications  would  you  be  making?

Inject  #3  (10:25  hrs.,  January  17):  Reporters  and  camera  crews  from  two  local  news  stations   have  arrived  and  are  looking  for  the  agency  spokesman.  Employees  are  dispersing  and  going   home.

Points  that  could  be  covered  in  the  discussion  of  Inject  #3  include:   ● Who  would  be  the  spokesperson? ● What  are  the  key  messages  you  be  delivering? ● Describe  the  plan  to  communicate  with  employees  at  this  point

Inject  #4  (11:00  hrs.,  January  17):  The  building  owner  met  with  the  fire  chief  and  has  reported   to  agency  leadership.  The  damage  to  the  building  is  so  significant  that  ingress  will  not  be   allowed  until  further  notice.  A  timeline  for  re-­‐entry  will  be  provided  to  the  owner  when  the   building  has  been  inspected  by  structural  engineers.  Chief  reported  that  the  server  room  has   been  completely  destroyed.

Points  that  could  be  covered  in  the  discussion  of  Inject  #4  include:   ● Describe  the  current  activities  of  the  relocation  team. ● Are  triggers  identified  for  activation  of  the  team? ● Describe  communication  plan  at  this  point. ● How  does  the  destruction  of  the  server  room  affect  your  communications  plan?

Inject  #5  (12:00  hrs.,  January  17):  The  agency  director  is  receiving  phone  calls  from   stakeholders.  The  agency  Public  Information  Officer  is  also  receiving  calls  from  reporters.   Questions  that  need  to  be  answered  include:

● Where  do  we  send  our  licensing  fees  (mail,  applications,  etc.)?  This  inject  can  be personalized  based  on  the  agency  needs).

● How  do  we  reach  the  XXX  program? ● Where  will  your  employees  report  to  work  tomorrow? ● How  will  this  event  affect  your  agencies  ability  to  carry  out  your  statutory


Inject  #6  (17:00  hrs.,  January  17):  The  COOP  plan  and  the  agency  leadership  team  will  operate   out  of  the  alternate  site  for  the  next  few  days.

Points  that  could  be  covered  in  the  discussion  of  Inject  #6  include:

● Describe  the  priorities  for  this  point ● Describe  the  various  responsibilities  for  the  leadership  team  and  the  relocation


Inject  #7  (08:00  hrs.,  January  18):.  The  leadership  team  is  meeting  to  discuss  priorities.

Points  that  could  be  covered  in  the  discussion  of  Inject  #7  include:

● Describe  what  the  priorities  are  at  this  point. ● How  will  funding  be  secured  to  implement  permanent  relocation? ● What  are  your  contractual  responsibilities  with  the  building  owner? ● What  is  the  status  of  agency  records  and  data?

Materials and Resources: Building plans including evacuation routes, area maps, and contact information for key personnel are provided to the group to utilize in the discussion

After-action Review (aka Hotwash): Review what went well and what improvements are needed to address this type of hazard.