The Disaster Game’s Bill Ashland Talks Calamities and Business Continuity


Got a continuity plan? If you don’t, every other plan–business, marketing, communications, project, etc.–could be wiped out in an instant.

That’s what Bill Ashland is out to prevent. Disasters happen, but disastrous losses aren’t necessary. Ashland, a business continuity expert, created the Disaster Game to help companies prepare for unpredictable events. The game makes you aware of the gamut of scenarios a business could experience as the result of a disaster. As a result, you can recognize and plug the holes in your continuity plan.

Plus, you have an excuse to play a game.

Business Pundit caught up with Ashland to discuss the idea behind the Disaster Game, who it benefits, and what it has to do with potentially disastrous (media-induced) future scenarios like calamity in the year 2012.

BP: How’d you come up with the idea for the Disaster Game?

From 2001 through 2008, I ran the Business Recovery portion of the Business Continuity Program at TD Banknorth (now TD Bank). In this role, I worked with the various business lines on the creation, maintenance, and testing of their plans. At it’s peak, I was responsible for more than 200 plans, and the efforts of more than 400 plan owners, builders, and auditors. This led to many “Something happened to your building, what do you do?” or “Something happened to your systems, what do you do?” moments. I spent many nights thinking about ways to make the process more engaging, which led me to think of using game play and the element of chance to build scenarios.

In 2007, I presented the concept at a Business Continuity conference, and the response was incredible. The following year, we returned to the conference for our official launch of The Disaster Game.

BP: What kinds of companies would benefit most from the game?

About 40% of our customer base in is the banking and financial services area, due to the fact that they are the most heavily regulated with regards to preparedness. However, the game is standardized enough to fit almost any organization of any size. Our customers include Xerox, Starbucks, T-Mobile, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, and the U.S. Treasury, insurance companies, health care organizations, utility providers, emergency management agencies and non-profit groups. We have sold games all over the U.S., as well as Canada, Europe, and Asia.

BP: Have you based your exercises on statistical likelihoods of certain events happening, or do you cover the gamut to encourage universal preparedness?

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The most likely disaster types are included (weather, fires, floods, power failures), as well as public health issues, gunman/hostage situations, terrorism, and more.

BP: How could managers use your game in their companies? What kinds of managers would the game target?

The corporate edition is targeted for organizations with an active group that focuses on risk management and/or business continuity. It can be used for awareness training, to educate employees about the types of situations they could face and steps that could be taken to mitigate and/or respond to them, as a pre-planning tool to direct planning efforts and get planners into the proper frame of mind, and for the testing and validation of continuity plans.

BP: I know that 2012 will gain traction as a trend in the mainstream media over the next couple of years. Do you think that this trend might also garner more interest in the Disaster Game? Can you see any movement in the disaster preparedness industry around 2012?

While 2012 will certainly be a hot button topic for mainstream media, it’s impact on business continuity will likely be minimal (since it involves end of the world scenarios which tend to exceed most planning parameters). You may see more attention given to personal and family preparedness, which we also address with our Family Preparedness Edition, as the hype builds up, but again the parameters exceed most planning scopes. I would not be surprised to see an opposite effect in certain areas, where people neglect career and financial responsibilities expecting the end is (really) near. If the world does not end as scheduled, it may create a backlash similar to that seen after the non-events of Y2K, where people treated the next “impending doom” stories with far less credibility.

BP: Any other comments?

The “big-ticket” disasters garner most of the attention, and 2012 doomsday scenarios make for great media headlines, but disasters come in many shapes and sizes, and impact people on a very personal level every day. A house fire, a job loss, a family member’s illness or injury may not make national headlines, but to the people in the eye of the storm, they are just as devastating. Our mission is to ensure that organizations and individuals know what to do when “What if?” happens to them.

Find out more about the Disaster Game here

Written by Drea Knufken

Drea Knufken

Currently, I create and execute content- and PR strategies for clients, including thought leadership and messaging. I also ghostwrite and produce press releases, white papers, case studies and other collateral.