For decades, airlines and air forces have used simulators as an essential tool to strengthen navigational safety and to improve the preparation and level of training of their crews. Using the simulator, crews become familiar with the rules and procedures of navigation and air traffic and improve their ability to respond to alerts and emergencies in conditions of “virtual stress”. This is because in simulated environments you can repeat situations in order to improve your responses to the exercises and scenarios that appear.
In spite of its increasing technological complexity, the air simulator is ultimately a cost-effective tool if one takes into account the savings made in terms of fuel, aircraft maintenance and navigation systems, amongst other benefits (reducing pollution, etc.). The aerial simulator is used by both new and expert air crews. Pilots must train in the simulator in order to start flying in real aircraft. The number of training hours in the simulator together with the actual flight hours make up the level of professional experience with which the pilot is certified.
Moving from a particular aeronautical field to a general corporate one, the functions of a Tabletop exercise are similar to those of an air simulator, but with a very reduced cost and unlimited, versatile possibilities.
Through a simulation, the company prepares its key employees for any type of situation within the company including emergency, critical and day-to-day ones.
Emergency situations have very negative consequences and generate profound damage to the image, reputation, function and turnover of a company. For this reason and due to its rare nature, it is wise to prepare, and above all train, each member of the corporate team how to respond to an unexpected situation whilst upholding the companies values. It is useful to train staff beyond the company’s mandatory, regulated fire drill.
With respect to the other types of situations, common and habitual in day-to-day business, the versatility offered by the use of a Tabletop Simulation Exercise makes it possible to replicate virtually any type of scenario and improve the way in which the organization responds to it. The scenarios proposed in Tabletop can be adapted very specifically to the needs or demands decided by the management levels of a company. They can also be aimed at improving upon the weaknesses of an organization or consolidating its strengths, increasing the level of effectiveness with which threats are contained or neutralized, or improving the detection and use of opportunities when they arise. In all these cases the Tabletop is an effective and inexpensive tool for business competitiveness.
Having pointed out all the above, and maintaining an integral, wide vision of the concepts of safety and security, one must understand that the Tabletop Simulation must be a part of the strategy and Business Continuity plans of the company.
Returning to the scenarios in which simulation exercises are useful, particularly for critical or emergency situations that, due their rare nature, alter the normal working dynamics of a company, using the Tabletop Simulation Exercise is a simple and effective way to measure the capacity of a team to respond to this type of situation.
An alert or emergency forces the units and resources of the company that in day to day situations are autonomous and independent to act in a coordinated way. Therefore, if Tactics, Techniques and Procedures are not tested, trained and improved, their use and coordination is not assured. Plans need to be tested to ensure that responses are adequately effective. A Tabletop Simulation Exercise poses realistic and credible critical or emergency virtual situations for different units and teams of a company.
When faced with a situation in the simulation exercise, the heads of the units and teams involved will improve their critical thinking, establish more agile or new forms of communication with other managers and train their skills and reflexes in aspects such as decision-making or interaction with other team leaders.
Another aspect that makes the development of a Tabletop Simulation beneficial is that it allows companies to detect the gaps and lack of capabilities that may exist in a business organization. Carrying out a simulation exercise can uncover these shortcomings as the exercise progresses and are detailed in the critical summary at the end of the simulation. With this knowledge, the company can solve these problems internally or opt to acquire external training.
On other occasions, the simulation exercise confirms the company’s known strengths but in a quantifiable and therefore, reinforceable way.
The preparation, design and development of such an exercise should be done by someone outside the company. This ensures that the exercise is not biased or contaminated with information, data and aspects of the hiring company culture which could be taken for granted. An outside consultant ensures the objectivity of the results and the veracity of the conclusions reached in the final exercise report issued after the simulation and the necessary critical summary.
It is therefore a useful, economical and versatile tool. Affordable costs and with limited preparation effort, the company is able to figure out its capacity to respond to different scenarios in a short period of time, improve the training of its decision makers at different levels, and evaluate the aspects of their business in which they are interested.