Tabletop Exercise Helps Participants Look beyond the Obvious
The Interchurch Center, located since 1960 in uptown Manhattan overlooking the Hudson River, has stood as a visible symbol of the oneness of many churches in Christ and reflective of the inspiring growth of ecumenism and inter-religious activity in the United States in the past century. The Center, which has had a business continuity plan since 1999, is one of many organizations in New York City that made changes to their plans since 9/11.
“We had never fully tested our plan,” said Sue Dennis, Interchurch Center executive director, “and we saw a need for more than the theoretical training we had done in the past. Attainium’s Disaster Experience came highly recommended by BOMA NY and by our property manager, who had participated in a similar exercise Attainium did for BOMA in Toronto. He said it was one of the best things he’d ever done.”
“The Disaster Experience is designed to stress the importance of planning for disruptions by putting participants in the throes of a real-life disaster situation as it unfolds,” said Bob Mellinger, Attainium CEO and president. “Participants are called upon to make the critical decisions any organization will have to make - and deal with the consequences of those decisions. We customize the exercise to the specific situation of the various participants.”
Interchurch invited a number of outside groups to its training session, including the Morningside Area Alliance, Barnard College, and Grubb & Ellis. The Center’s own medical, security and engineering staffs also participated, making a total of close to 60 participants.
Bart McDade, Director of Operations for Grubb & Ellis, who attended the session, said that most of the participants quickly got the impression that what they were seeing as the simulation unfolded “might not be what the problem really was. They learned they had to dig a bit deeper to find the real problem so they didn’t react too soon and make things worse.”
“The exercise helped identify the strengths and weaknesses of our response plans,” Dennis said. “For example, our medical staff became acutely aware of some additional needs when a mercury spill became part of the problem. In addition, we became aware of some vulnerable times for our particular building that we have been working to correct.
“The staff liked the team approach, and I thought the most effective plans came from the groups that worked as teams. My staff split up and participated in various groups where they were able to benefit from the perspectives of people from other environments and disciplines,” Dennis said. “The results were interesting as people evaluated themselves and different people took different approaches. Everyone felt it was very valuable.”
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