Five Factors to Consider for Your Emergency Exercise
Once you have established a crisis plan, you will need to test it regularly with a properly enacted emergency exercise to make sure it runs smoothly. “If an organization fails to plan, then it is planning to fail,” said Sean Ahrens, project manager with Aon Risk Solutions.
An exercise is “an event that tests the integrated capability and major portion of the basic elements existing within emergency preparedness plans and organizations,” according to the Department of Energy. Properly executed emergency exercises should show resource and information gaps; teach each person his or her role during a real emergency; and increase procedural, facility, and systems-related knowledge.
Here are five factors to consider when planning, scheduling, and enacting your emergency drill:
Bring in experienced consultants to help plan so the exericse will feel as real as possible.
When planning an exercise or drill, be sure to consult with subject matter experts who can help make the simulation as real as possible. Examples of such experts include toxicologists, emergency medical technicians, firefighters, police officers, and technical consultants.
Make it clear that it’s just an exercise.
Sometimes emergency managers conduct emergency exercises spontaneously to allow for the most realistic response. Other times, the exercise is scheduled and announced in advance so participants can practice their roles. Either way, ensure that messaging during the exercise clearly indicates that the exercise is just a simulation and not a real crisis.
Ensure the safety of participants during the drill.
The purpose of a an emergency exercise is to teach people how to remain safe should a real crisis occur. Unfortunately, people can get hurt during exercises, too, if proper precautions are not taken. Consider appointing an Exercise Safety Lead who can create a safety plan checklist designed to foresee any possible hazards associated with the emergency exercises. The list can include information about off-limit areas, site-specific hazards, public interference, weather interference, and more.
Brief important personnel before the drill.
Drills are intended to teach people safety procedures and test the effectiveness of the emergency plan. However, training is necessary to ensure the exercise itself properly highlights any issues. Before scheduling the emergency exercise, invite relevant personnel for an exercise briefing to ensure they understand the scope of the exercise, the objectives, safety precautions, their responsibilities during the exercise, and any other rules of conduct.
Carry out a post-drill report.
After the emergency exercise, conduct a post-drill report to identify what worked and what didn’t to inform future exercises and emergency preparation. The post-drill report should be based on not only emergency manager observation but also participant survey or interview.