Each year between January 1st and December 31st, schools are required to test a section of their emergency management plan [or Emergency Operations Plan (EOP)] by completing a tabletop, functional, or full-scale exercise. In a three-year period, schools are required to complete one tabletop, one functional, and one full-scale exercise on a rotation.
There are two primary reasons to conduct an Exercise. The first is to validate plans, like a District or facility EOP, and the second is to evaluate training that has taken place. Plans must serve as the basis for developing various aspects of an Exercise, including the objectives, the scenario, and the evaluation guides. The scenario is the situation against which specific aspects of the plan are applied. This allows participants to assess the validity of the plan – to determine if the plan supports an effective response to the situation presented in the scenario.
Before the end of the school year, I assisted my local district, South-Western City School District, with their required functional training exercise and Emergency Management Test (EMT). The scenario for the exercise was a severe weather event, with a storm path directly affecting the District, and it aimed to exercise Emergency Operations Center (EOC) activation, operation, planning, and message coordination. The exercise forced the 34 participating schools to utilize their EOPs to respond to the severe weather injects, while completing the EMT Data Collection Worksheet required by the Ohio School Safety Center:
The data collected by this worksheet was recently sent to me and I am proud to share that at least half of the participating schools reported the ease of accessing their EOPs through the Mobile Emergency Response Plan (MERP) as a ‘strength’ during this exercise. This feedback highlights the exact reason why the MERP was created: making lengthy printed EOPs that historically reside in an Administrative Office easily accessible to those that need them, when they need them. This includes exercises of all types. As the saying goes, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Not utilizing a tool that is meant to be accessed during an emergency while participating in an exercise is a true failure.
During an actual incident the MERP cuts through the confusion to provide quick and easy reminders of tasks to be performed or procedures to be followed. All content in the MERP is able to be revised on an on-going basis, so that during an exercise, participants can make real-time edits and apply them directly to their EOP. This feature enables effective evaluation of the capabilities listed in the EOP as necessary to prepare for, respond to, and recover from an emergency incident.
STRENGTH IDENTIFIED DURING THE EXERCISE:
Use of the MERP application to access predetermined plans, the ability to access support team and staff as needed, and use of a centralized response that is adjustable for each specific building.
Its ability to make plans portable, accessible and revisable make the MERP an ideal tool to support all aspects of planning, training and exercises.
How do YOU want to access your EOP? By running to your principal’s office to grab the red binder? Or opening it through an app on your phone?