Yesterday I was fortunate enough to witness (quite accidentally) some thing interesting – I landed in the organization for a visit and was stuck in the security gate’s visitor’s room for more than an hour:
One of the renowned IT companies here, was conducting a mock drill – on ‘terrorist attack’.
I have been reading about terrorist mock drills conducted by government agencies, large financial institutions etc. But it was a pleasant surprise (for me) to see IT organizations taking such drills so seriously.

It was really heartening to see active involvement from all authorities like Police and other forces, fire force, medical institutions (actual ones who will be involved in a real situation) with their tools and equipments. Only the terrorists, hostages, casualties and the fireworks/explosions were mock!

The objectives of the drill (as I understood from the way it was conducted and what I could capture from the commentary that was going on for the employees):

  • To create awareness among the employees about:
    •  the Do’s and Don’ts during such an unfortunate incident
    • different activities that go through during such an event
    • different agencies who get involved in such an emergency situation
  • Create confidence in the employee community on the preparedness of the authorities and the relevant agencies involved
  • To provide an opportunity for the ERT members and other stake holders to ‘test and trial-run’ their roles, procedures and communication framework – that will definitely prepare them much better for an emergency situation.

It was a well planned and executed drill and am sure it met most of the objectives (if not all).

While appreciating  all the positives in the planning and execution there, I could not help notice some minor observations which could be of some concern to such organizations who are taking the employee safety and awareness seriously:

  • Many (quite senior) employees of the same organizations who were stuck in the security block (along with me) were taking the event as a obstacle to their work than an opportunity.  There were unfortunate comments like “what a waste of time” etc.  They need to understand there will not be any ‘time to waste’ if, god forbid,  such a real incident happens.
  • Some of them were analyzing ‘what could be the billing rate of these people for this event’and ‘how much money must be spent in organizing such a massive event’ . While appreciating the fact that their entire professional life might be revolving around ‘billing’ and ‘billing rate’, one cant help but wonder will they worry about the billing rate of terrorists if they were stuck in a building in a terrorist attack?  (Unfortunately, I believe, it is next to impossible to calculate a real ROI for a business continuity and disaster preparedness!)
  • The crowd excitedly watching the events were requested repeatedly (to the level of pleading) to move away from the fire fighting equipments to enable them operate them properly. While 30-40% obeyed, the remaining was not even caring about such an announcement. It is important to create awareness about ‘following orders’ during an emergency situation. It is doubtful, if people doesn’t care about announcement in such a planning situation, will ever have the mindset to listen to some in a panic situation. (obviously majority of them were busy taking photos of “terrorists and forces in their xx-pixel mobile camera!)
  • Many employees were keen to utilize the time as a ‘nicotine break’ outside the campus. The number of people smoking there, made me think that is a ‘designated smoking area’, before I noticed the board indicating the same as ‘Strictly non-smoking area!

The purpose of putting the above observations here, is in no way to criticize the event – it is just to throw light on some minor aberrations that otherwise might be missed by the stake holders of such organizations.

Having said all these, Kudos to the entire team who have made the event happen (and to all other organizations who has initiated such practices)especially the the authorities and agencies –  it is really important for all organizations to look into these kind of preparedness and awareness.