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Learning from Failure: A Lesson in Effective Drills and Exercises

11 Jul. 2018 Posted by aadams

Carol Hill, FEI Operations Specialist, Crisis Management

When evaluating a crisis management plan, preparedness and training are key components of effective planning. However, when planning drills or exercises, there is often the tendency to over plan to ensure a successful drill or exercise.

No one expects their drill or exercise to fail, but discovering points of failure or areas that need additional focus will reinforce your emergency response. Allowing your emergency response team to discover these failures in a controlled and safe environment should be one of the key objectives of any drill or exercise. This will encourage the team to adjust the plan as needed to resolve issues, thus strengthening troubleshooting and response skills.

Finding a "Sweet Spot"

It is vital for any drill or exercise to be planned; the objectives of what you want to accomplish through the drill or exercise need to be clearly identified and reviewed. A balance must be achieved between effective planning, testing the plan and allowing for failure.

It is important to remember the following when planning and conducting a successful drill
or exercise:

Start small. Break down a response into the various critical tasks that need to be accomplished: Team notification, team assignment, crisis communication, etc. Another good idea is to test various time elements of a response such as the first 12 hours, a shift change or mid-response and recovery.

Work with individual teams before bringing them together for an exercise. This approach will help teams understand how their tasks integrate with the overall response effort. It is recommended to involve executives, the community and your insurers to help further understand how each stakeholder will support the response.

Check on appropriate approval for costs. Whether it is resources or time, conducting drills and exercises have costs associated with them. Costs and/or other investments should be agreed upon by various organizational stakeholders prior to scheduling a drill or exercise.

Drill as if it is real. It is only by following the current process that you will identify potential points of failure, or issues that could pose problems during an actual response. This falls into the next point, which is . . .

Follow your emergency response plan and individual checklists during the drill. If you find something that is unclear, missing or if you discover a gap in the process, document your findings and bring them up during the debriefing following the end of the drill.

Conduct a debrief afterwards. Finally, follow up on any after-action items resulting from
the drill.

A Stronger Response

By allowing your drills and exercises to be as organic and authentic as possible, you will increase the potential to identify areas of concern and allow your emergency response team to find solutions to obstacles. Utilizing various scenarios will engage the team, challenging their critical thinking capabilities and training them to quickly respond to a variety of threats that could impact your organization in the future.

At FEI, our experts have designed and facilitated drills and exercises that can take into consideration your organization’s unique resources and strengths while allowing your crisis team to discover obstacles and deliver robust solutions. Please contact us to learn more.

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