A case study from the Housing Association sector
Our client is a Housing Association, providing a wide range of quality homes for over 5,000 residents, with particular expertise in providing housing for older people. The portfolio includes purpose built retirement properties available for rent, shared ownership and leasehold. In addition to the provision of housing, our client also provides services to their own residents, other landlords and individuals through an alarm monitoring service. This organisation was relatively mature in their business continuity arrangements, and had previously conducted a number of scenario exercises. They wished to conduct a more advanced exercise that would ‘stretch’ their management team in its response, ensuring that complacency in handling disruptive incidents hadn’t set in.
During our discussions with the client, it became clear that the senior team responsible for managing a major disruption had been through a number of scenario exercises in previous years including: fire, train collision, and gas attack at a nearby shopping centre. They felt that they were in a strong position to handle serious incidents. Whilst this was likely the case, the client wished Gallagher to conduct an exercise that would challenge the team further, which would lead to a business impact on all three regions where they operate, and would potentially affect both their Head Office operation (including 24/7 alarm-monitoring service) and one or more local housing schemes.
The Gallagher consultant suggested that a more challenging exercise could commence with an actual ‘live’ evacuation of the Head Office building. We worked with two senior personnel to develop a realistic and challenging scenario which would start with a completely unannounced fire drill. As the senior management team would then relocate to an off-site ‘control centre’ and be out of the business for a few hours. The exercise was carried out over a half-day period as planned, and included such elements as removing the CEO from the room partway through to provide her deputy with the opportunity to lead the response.
Value and next steps
Even with a team which was largely experienced in participating in such exercises, many lessons were learnt from increasing the challenge, and actions taken away to make improvements. It also resulted in a quicker and more coordinated response as the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The exercise was so well-received by the client that the Executive Director responsible posted a picture and commentary on LinkedIn, commented upon by the CEO as “a fantastic, real as possible, scenario – a great test of our Business Continuity knowledge and skills”.