COVID19 Threat Mitigation Virtual Table Top: Case Study

tabletop exercise

A Continuity of Business Operations

Tabletop Exercise Case Study with a Customizable Template by Jeff Spears, COO

To help other companies design a similar tabletop exercise, we have created this case study with a template as a starting point that can be tailored to the specific business operations and assessed risks of other companies. Although there is no “one size fits all” approach to conducting such exercises, we hope that it inspires and assists other small businesses in developing their own exercises to find vulnerabilities within their organizations before a sudden disruptive event occurs.

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Summary 

Synectics, like most businesses, maintains a continuity of business operations plan as a guide to continuing operations when unexpected internal or external events have a sudden or dramatic impact upon operations. With the tragic outbreak in China and elsewhere of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, and the use of quarantines to contain the virus, Synectics decided to conduct a “virtual tabletop exercise” as an initial step in evaluating our ability to continue key business operations if an event such as a quarantine were to impact our corporate headquarters.

Goals 

The goals of this first step were:  

  • Raise management awareness of the potential for this contingency. 
  • Assess potential impact upon key operations across several functional areas. 
  • Identify key areas of impact for further testing through a physical tabletop exercise.
  • Inform executive leadership of areas where resources should be allocated to mitigate assessed risk. 

Synectics conducted this virtual tabletop exercise between February 4 and February 10, 2020.  The decision to conduct this exercise in support of continuity of business operations was triggered by increased global risk as indicated by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Executive Orders of the President, and the expanded use of isolation and quarantines worldwide as a basis for control of the disease’s spread. 

Scenario 

The exercise is based upon an unknown “super spreader” of the virus that infects several unconnected people in the area of Rosslyn, Virginia that begins an uncontained spread of the disease.  As a result, a 21-day quarantine of the area is ordered. During this period, no one except official personnel may come into or out of the area, and no Synectics personnel are on-site at the time of the order.  Though the quarantine affects the ability to enter and exit the area, the scenario assumes no disruption of essential services. This aspect of the scenario was to ensure that the focus of the virtual tabletop exercise was to assess core impacts and related risk that we could take immediate action to mitigate. Follow-up exercises will begin to focus more heavily on testing external dependencies to include degradation of essential services and potential impact upon customers, employees and their families.  

Conclusion 

At the conclusion of the exercise, the results were organized into a final report and briefed to the executive leadership team with recommendations for actions to mitigate risk. In evaluating the exercise against the limited goals established prior to the exercise, it was a success. 

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Posted by Jeff Spears

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