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Hurricane Series: Conduct a hurricane tabletop exercise

If your facilities are in an area prone to hurricanes, your staff, volunteers and other key people will need to be prepared should disaster strike. One good way to prepare is to conduct a hurricane tabletop exercise that allows you to talk through how you would handle such a situation.

Here, Church Mutual offers some steps you can take to conduct a tabletop exercise and a sample scenario.

  1. First, determine the objectives for the exercise and identify the severe weather preparedness processes you will use in the scenario. The exercise will be more meaningful if you can find ways to make the scenario relevant to your organization.
  2. Assemble a team of no more than 15 people to participate in the exercise. None of these people should have participated in developing the process. Members of your leadership team should be present at the tabletop exercise, but as observers, not participants.
  3. Assign each team member a role from your severe weather preparedness plan.
  4. Introduce the scenario to the team without providing much detail, and then read through the exercise.
  5. After each of the exercise’s two parts, conduct a five-minute discussion during which group members talk about the actions they would need to take in their specific roles.
  6. After the tabletop exercise has concluded, facilitate a leadership team meeting during which you:
    • Identify areas of weakness and concern.
    • Set measurable goals to address each weakness.
    • Identify the person responsible for completing each goal.
    • Set a date for a future tabletop exercise that will allow you to determine if you have resolved the areas of weakness.

The following is a two-part scenario you can use for your exercise:

Part 1:

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported that after a week in warm open waters, Hurricane David is approximately 200 miles off your coast. The local office of the NHC issued a hurricane watch for a large portion of the coast, including your community. Currently a Category 1 hurricane, David continues to gain strength and is projected to make landfall within 72 hours. Forecasters are already warning of the potential for this storm to become extremely powerful.

Considerations for discussion:

  1. How will you plan to monitor weather conditions?
  2. How do you plan to prepare your organization’s facilities?
  3. How do you plan to communicate with staff, volunteers and members regarding your actions?
  4. What decisions need to be made and who are the deciders?

Part 2:

Twenty-four hours have passed, the storm has strengthened, and the NHC issues a Hurricane Warning for your area. Hurricane David is a Category 3 storm, projected to make landfall in the next 36 hours. The governor has declared a state of emergency and issues an evacuation order for the area. As a result, many in your organization are set to evacuate as soon as possible.

Considerations for discussion, assuming the hurricane could make landfall in your area:

  1. How do you plan to secure your organization to be left unoccupied until your return?
  2. How do you plan to ensure important data, documents and artifacts are not lost in the event of total loss?
  3. How do you plan to communicate with those involved in your organization?
  4. How will you assist the elderly and disabled within your organization?
  5. What decisions need to be made and who are the deciders?

Click here to access a downloadable Hurricane Tabletop Exercise. After completing the exercise, evaluate your organization's preparedness with our Hurricane Exercise Evaluation.

Read more about hurricane safety, preparedness and recovery:

What is your organization doing to prepare for severe weather?

See how you can prepare and protect your organization from nature’s destructive forces by viewing our 10 Essentials of Severe Weather Preparedness. Then take action and step up your severe weather and natural disaster preparedness efforts by utilizing our Severe Weather Preparedness Assessment.

For more severe weather information and resources, visit