Why Do We need to Practice our Emergency Plans?


Everyday throughout the country there are hundreds of drills, exercises, and tests going on to assess our emergency plans. Regardless of our success at these, we continue to drill, exercise, and test. At what point will we just figure it out? When can we stop testing and work on something else?

Obviously, I am being sarcastic, and believe that we should never stop tweaking our emergency plans through exercise and drills. Knowing what to do in an emergency is critical. Preparation is one of the most important safety measures to ensure readiness in the event that some incident occurs. Why then is there often push-back against these activities?

Exercises Take Time

Our time is valuable and a major requirement for a good exercise is the participation of those who have a dog in the fight. How effective can you be at testing the response of law enforcement without law enforcement being there? How can we judge the value of the Red Cross if they are not involved? Successfully communicating the importance of the exercise can help ease some of these issues.

Exercises are Expensive

The mere number of people involved in a quality exercise definitely pushes up its cost. In addition to the labor hours, you may also need location rentals, meals, and resources. I have been involved in exercises that would bankrupt many organizations or counties. Many hands make light work, and this holds true in exercises as well. Look around and see if you cannot share the costs with others participating or have some items donated.

Exercises May Seem Repetitive

There is not a rule that says an exercise or drill must be boring and repetitive. How interested is a group going to be if they are testing their abilities to respond to an overturned chlorine truck for the 8th year in a row? Get creative and utilize your imagination a little. This will help create return customers next time you hold an exercise.

Exercises Are Not Realistic

You should practice how you fight. This does not mean that you cannot be creative, but having a UFO drop an unknown HazMat substance on the county courthouse is a bit much. People are giving up their time so make the exercise worth their while, and not too unbelievable.

Exercises Don’t Seem to Matter

One of the biggest and most important steps in any exercise is the after-action when you discuss the lessons learned. If those participating are left out of this conversation or their comments are not recognized, they will lose interest. Do something with the findings so you are not just re-identifying them year after year.

Preparation through exercises and drills are some of the most important safety measures to ensure readiness. We need to do a better job at explaining their value and making sure that we are designing them in a way that refutes the complaints of those who have had bad experiences in the past.

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