Practice Makes Perfect

The Client
A well-known retailer, with over 190 stores and several large distribution centres nationwide.

The Requirement
Acumen was commissioned to prepare and facilitate a programme of incident management and business recovery exercises, involving both the head office functions and the supply chain operations at each of the main distribution centres.

The Solution
Acumen's consultants carefully designed, planned and prepared a programme of specific exercises, involving several different major incident scenarios, which were facilitated onsite at each of the key locations.

One of the exercises was conducted at the client's Hemel Hempstead distribution centre. At over 400,000 square feet, it is their largest distribution centre, delivering thousands of products daily to stores throughout the UK.

The exercise at the Hemel distribution centre took place on Thursday 8th December 2005, and involved fourteen people in three teams operating from different rooms, to simulate different physical locations. The exercise, which ran for half a day, highlighted a number of issues and follow-up actions, which were logged and responsibilities assigned as part of the exercise facilitation.

The Payoff
The client were to quickly find out just how useful this tailored exercising programme had been, as just days after the exercise, the participants were doing it all again for real!

At 06:04 on Sunday 11th December 2005, a series of explosions and subsequent fires destroyed the Buncefield oil terminal, some 500 yards from the client’s distribution centre. The rest, as they say is history.

There were some forty staff onsite at the distribution centre at the time of the first explosion. Thankfully none of them was injured. As soon as all onsite staff had been evacuated and accounted for, the client's distribution business continuity plan swung into action.

Despite the disaster being a different scenario from that used in the exercise (during exercise planning it was decided, for various reasons, not to use a Buncefield incident as the exercise scenario), many of the issues that resulted from the explosions were identical to those raised by the exercise. These included personnel welfare issues, communications issues, transportation and logistics issues and a whole host of other problems that needed to be resolved.

Feedback from those involved indicated that having so recently been through a scenario-based exercise, even though the issues and follow-up actions identified had not all been fully resolved, put the client a day or so ahead of where they would have been without it.

What the Client Said
"We have benefitted from professional services provided by Acumen for several years. Consulting and continuity testing services have been provided for various brands within the group.

The professionalism of services provided by Acumen are best illustrated by events in December 2005, when a detailed and thorough continuity test was executed at our warehouse at Hemel Hempstead - 3 days before the explosion at Buncefield forced the immediate closure of the same warehouse and successful invocation of the continuity plan."

Head of Group Business Risk & Assurance