Based on our many years of experience, we find that those who are best at handling emergencies have practiced in order to be prepared. Simulations of emergency situations, or emergency exercises, are integral to an Emergency Response Plan. They offer opportunities for organizations to examine and strengthen their capacities for responding to various emergencies.
These exercises also may expose the limitations of existing plans, such as procedural gaps or training needs. By encouraging all response partners (e.g., officials in the public health, mental health, fire and law enforcement communities) to participate, organizations can assess the roles, responsibilities, relationships, communication strategies and resources that would be critical should an actual crisis occur.
Participants learn about dealing with the stress and quick decision-making that needs to happen in a real scenario. The lessons learned may also be used to evaluate and improve the Emergency Response Plan. Video footage can be taken and used to further inform plan improvements.
Emergency exercises validate existing emergency plans, programs, policies, roles and responsibilities, as well as the training curriculum, by:
- Testing the capabilities of the team;
- Providing a gap analysis to identify deficiencies and problems in the current program;
- Familiarizing participants with plans and procedures through low-stress activities;
- Preparing the team to coordinate with local, state and federal agencies;
- Enhancing collaboration between organizations and public information officers (PIOs); and
- Increasing the confidence of the team while strengthening its ability to respond effectively to an emergency.