Wavelength Magazine: Make the Most of Every Training Opportunity - The Top 5 Lessons When Preparing an Emergency Response Exercise

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Wavelength Magazine: Make the Most of Every Training Opportunity - The Top 5 Lessons When Preparing an Emergency Response Exercise

In a Wavelength exclusive, Michel Laporte, director–Kingston Office, Calian Training, shares his ‘Top 5 Lessons’ when it comes to preparing for an emergency response exercise


While most organizations understand the value of having an emergency response plan in place, many often miss the opportunity to effectively put their plan to the test to ensure that they are in fact, suitably prepared if and when disaster strikes. 


Companies like Calian have extensive experience in emergency response training, and know exactly what  organizations need to achieve training success. For over 20 years, Calian has planned, developed, delivered, and reported on emergency response preparedness exercises for customers such as the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces, Public Safety Canada (for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and a number of G20/G8 Conferences) and a number of provincial and municipal governments. Last month, the company hosted a symposium at the World Conference on Disaster Management in Toronto, where they shared some of their key findings on how organizations can make the most of their training opportunities.


Lesson 1: Do Your Homework and Conduct a Needs Analysis

An essential first step is to take a critical look at where your organization’s emergency response preparedness stands, and identify its specific training needs. A needs analysis should review all mandated training requirements, the structure, role and responsibilities of individuals within your emergency response teams, the current level of training and qualifications of individuals, as well as the collective experience of the various departments or cells within your organization to determine where gaps exist. With this knowledge, your organization can then develop a comprehensive training plan that will address both individual and collective training requirements.


Lesson 2: Exercise Planners Should Not Be Selected from Exercise Participants

Significant effort goes into planning an emergency response training exercise, and the last thing your organization should gamble on is its validity. As a result, I often advise that, once training objectives have been identified, organizations should engage outside experts to manage the exercise. Leading up to and on the day of the exercise, emergency response personnel should focus solely on the training opportunity and its outcomes, and not be double tasked with trying to facilitate and manage the exercise. This results in a more focused, effective and ultimately, realistic, training scenario.


Lesson 3: Select Appropriate Tools

Technology can be a powerful asset for training exercises; however, you should choose tools that meet your organization’s unique needs and do not hinder your success. At Calian, we work closely with a number of companies that have developed a range of simulations specific to emergency response and crisis rehearsal training. For us, it is important to find the exercise technology and methodology appropriate to the client and which best supports the attainment of all training objectives. 

Lesson 4: Apply a Proven Methodology to Exercise Design

In addition to having the right technology to support an exercise, it is equally important to have the right experts in place to effectively plan and manage the exercise. At Calian, our training success is built on our approach and methodology to emergency response training. First, it’s important to know that there is no “cookie cutter” solution to creating an effective exercise. Every organization is unique and, therefore, exercise planners need to spend time getting to know the specific needs of an organization before they develop a focused education program that can be validated through a range of activities. Activities can range from one-day seminars and table-top exercises, to multi-day, multi-jurisdiction scenario-based training environments. It is also important to identify early on which metrics are most important to your organization and then ensure that the planning team establishes the process to capture and respond to these indices. 


Lesson 5: Conduct a Thorough After-Action Review

The most important part of any exercise takes place on its conclusion. It is at this point that you are able to take a step back, look at how the exercise went, and determine what this means for the future. The conduct of a detailed after-action review is critical to the overall success of any training exercise, and should identify any gaps in response or training. Typically, we perform a post-exercise review and then develop and deliver a comprehensive report that will serve as the baseline for our customers’ future planning. Specifically, I often find that a critical element of this analysis and assessment is the identification of an organization’s risk tolerance levels and catastrophic risk exposure.


With a long history of conducting synthetic environment based training, Calian has worked hard to establish itself within field of disaster management and is delighted to share some of its hardlearned “best practices.” We look forward to further opportunities that enhance Canada’s abilities to deal with an increasing range of potentially catastrophic crises.

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