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Five tips that will enhance your Exercise Design program

 Do you want to improve the quality of your exercise design program? We all want to get the most out of the time we spend planning, training, and preparing. The one of the basic properties of good  organizational preparedness is a solid exercise design program.

Follow these tips to get the most out of your exercise design program and keep your personnel engaged in the process:

1. Know your hazards and threats. 
Every organization should be conducting a hazard vulnerability assessment and a threat assessment. Ask yourself what you're likely to be facing and keep it realistic. After you've made your list, prioritize it according to actual threats. Again keep it real! Planning an exercise around the hazard that is so remote for your organization or location will whittle away at your credibility. When planning a first-time exercise, choose a threat or a hazard that everyone is familiar with… don't be afraid to build a scenario around a routine storm situation or other event that you could reasonably face.

2. Know your facility your department and your people. 
Apply the results from your assessment to your mission. How could these threats or hazards impact your mission in the delivery of your service? How will these threats and hazards impact your people in their ability to do their jobs? This next part can be uncomfortable… but you have to do a realistic skill level evaluation of your personnel. Knowing exactly what they are capable of (or not capable of) is vital to establishing your exercise design program. Designing exercises or drills that are too complex for the skill level of your personnel and you risk losing credibility and participation in your program. And once that's lost its almost impossible to get it back.
3. Lay the groundwork. 
Preparation is the key from buy-in to actual delivery of your exercise program. Let the information you gather from your hazard vulnerability and threat assessment out to the public make your findings part of everyday life for your personnel, agency or your department. As mentioned previously, base your exercise design program on realistic threats… but, don't be afraid to add a hint of acting in dramatic license.
4. Start small. 
Follow the exercise design progression: orientations and seminars, then drills, then tabletop exercises, and only then when you've mastered these exercises move on to full scale functional exercises. Skipping steps in this progression put you on the path to failure. You risk wasting time, wasting resources, and losing the support of your peers.

5. Write your scenario well. 
Spend some time on your scenario to make it as realistic as possible… again with a hint of acting and dramatic license… you can bring your scenario to life. Make sure your scenarios are plausible (even if exaggerated) and are based on reality and the information you've gathered in your assessment process. Do not come up with scenarios that are so catastrophic as to create a no-win situation. No-win situations are discouraging and you'll have a hard time getting people to come back for follow-up exercise.

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