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Global Crisis Simulation: A Sneak Peek

Global Crisis Simulation Nairobi and London. The Brooke, an international NGO, staff shown working on a tabletop crisis simulation in the two countries.

The Brooke is a global animal welfare organisation that works to improve the lives of working horses, donkeys, and mules, as well as the people who rely on them, in Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East. They accomplish this with the assistance of over 900 employees and volunteers.

Beginning in 2013, the Brooke began working with Safer Edge on a Crisis Response Policy, and that same year they held an international crisis exercise with their offices in the United Kingdom, India, and Kenya. Their operations and activities had grown and developed over the previous four years, so they felt it was time to refresh their skills and put their crisis management plan to the test. They approached Safer Edge with the request to create and run a customised crisis simulation in both their UK and Kenya offices at the same time.

Safer Edge specialises in crisis simulation, which it frequently develops and customises for international organisations. Running a simulation in real time across multiple continents, time zones, and cultures is difficult, but crises are never simple.

Brooke's crisis simulation took place over two days in July 2017, with the team spending the first day in both the UK and Kenya working with a Safer Edge facilitator to refresh their crisis preparedness learning and reviewing existing policy and procedures.

The crisis simulation began unexpectedly at some point during those two days. The simulation was designed specifically for the Brooke, taking into account what they do, where they work, and who they work with. It simulated a real-life event in which communications (emails, texts, and Skype) were muddled and confused, often containing contradictory information. A Safer Edge Simulation Controller remotely guided the simulation, developing the plot line in response to Brooke's staff decisions in both locations.

“Simulations are extremely effective because they force you to act and feel as if it is real,” said Sophie Gass, Prospect Researcher at The Brooke. “Making mistakes or failing to think of things was an important part of the learning process, and it was far more useful than someone telling you what to do through a presentation.”

Throughout, realism was maintained to the greatest extent possible, and a level of stress was simulated that staff could expect if the crisis had been real. Participants were forced to concentrate on critical aspects of crisis management such as communication, team dynamics, family liaison, and media management.

Not all decisions made in the moment appear to be the "right" ones, but the simulation's dynamic structure allows participants to experience the consequences of decisions made only with the information they had at the time. Observers observed the teams and took notes in order to facilitate the team debrief at the end, where participants can analyse what, how, and why they acted the way they did.

“This was a hugely beneficial training in less than two days with a lot of learning,” Gass continues.

We were encouraged to think for ourselves and were directed to areas where we might have missed something important. At the end of the simulation, feedback was provided in a concise and structured manner, and recommendations were made to assist our specific organisation in improving its crisis management preparedness. Overall, I had a great time, and I feel much more prepared to deal with a crisis if one arises.”

“As an INGO working across Africa, Asia, and Central America, it has been very helpful for us to test our emergency and crisis response in a simulation with one of our African programmes,” Julie Porter, International Head of HR at Brooke, agreed. This is the second time we've done this with one of our Country Programs, demonstrating how important it is to thoroughly test our processes and capabilities. The training and simulation are of very high quality, and we have gained a lot from them.”

The crisis simulation was designed to ensure that each member of Brooke's Crisis Management Team (CMT) understood the crisis management process, their role, and how their role contributed to a successful resolution. However, the Brooke's teams discovered that it provided them with much more. It assisted them in identifying gaps in knowledge and practise, as well as appreciating and working together despite being on different continents. It also improved their skills and confidence, so that if the worst were to happen, they would be ready to deal with it. “Being prepared for a crisis is a painful experience; being unprepared hurts like hell,” said Samuel, Brooke's Administration Officer in Kenya.


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