Why Should You Exercise Your Emergency Management Plan?

You have an emergency program in place, including emergency management and business continuity plans and regular training. But how do you know if your plan and training program are effective and will stand the test of a real emergency or disaster? Through a training and exercise program.

Here are five reasons why you should integrate exercising into your emergency management program:

  1. Apply your training. Exercises, like tabletops and full-scales, are some of the best ways to simulate emergency situations to better prepare employees for the real event.
  2. Identify important training and skills gaps. You may think you’ve covered all your bases with your training program, but is a real emergency the right time to put that to the test? Run drills, tabletop or full scale exercises to help identify gaps in your training program, and roles that require more skills training.
  3. Develop the right skills to manage complex and stressful incidents. It’s one thing to read about how to respond to or support an incident, but it’s quite another to simulate a real-life event and have various inputs and emergency details thrown at you. Through exercising, you can simulate real-life events, and your team can learn how to better handle complex and stressful situations.
  4. Pinpoint resource needs. Are there enough workstations at your Emergency Operations Centre? Do you have enough security officers to effectively evacuate the building? A training and exercise program will help identify missing resources, so you can make sure you have everything you need should a real event or disaster occur.
  5. Better engage your team and improve learning. Is your team just going through the motions with your training program or are they engaged and active participants? Integrate a functional exercise to get your team out of their seats and engaged in learning. The result? A more effective response when an incident occurs. 

We’ve all participated in an exercise at some point in our lives. Perhaps it was as simple as a fire drill at your elementary school or as complex as a full-scale exercise to test the effectiveness of an earthquake response involving multiple response agencies and municipalities. A training and exercise program is important at many levels, and can ensure you have the skills, resources and proper training in place to properly respond should an emergency or disaster take place.

Exercises can be used at any stage in your training program:

  • Use seminars to introduce new plans, concepts and procedures.
  • Implement workshops to facilitate discussion and training around specific concepts.
  • Choose tabletop exercises when you want participants to solve specific emergency scenarios using a discussion format.
  • Integrate immersive simulation technology to examine the decision-making process.
  • Use drills to validate individual functions and activities.
  • Select a functional exercise to validate multiple functions at a single site.
  • Implement a full-scale exercise as a realistic scenario that validates multiple functions across multiple sites.

So who in your organization should be responsible for setting up the training and exercise program? Usually it’s the same person responsible for developing your emergency management or business continuity plan and managing your training program. Typical roles include the Emergency Manager, Business Continuity Planner, Operations Manager or Director of Safety and Security. As the importance of this role is increasingly recognized, many larger organizations are hiring specifically trained Exercise Design Specialists.

You will likely need at least some knowledge and training in exercise design and emergency management to get started. The JIBC Emergency Management Division offers an Introduction to Emergency Management Exercise Design course that is available either online or delivered to a group of employees at your location. This course will provide a basic foundation in exercise design concepts. If you want to develop in-depth expertise in your organization, or qualify for specialist roles, you can complete an Emergency Management Certificate or Emergency Management Exercise Design Certificate.

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