With or without official definitions focus on these strategies for effective exercise design.
What's in a name? Well, an exercise bike textbook definition is a process designed to improve preparedness. An exercise is also designed to strengthen disaster capabilities and enhance functioning during times of crisis.
The focus of exercise is on performance. We look at operational and administrative actions. When we look at these operational aspects that have to be viewed and implemented from the perspective of an actual event. In other words, practice how you play. This means that all participants need to know their roles and duties not only on a daily basis but how those rules may change in times of crisis.
Effective exercise design motivates the participants. “Realistic” action is based on a realistic simulation. In this context, the term realistic is based on your reality. You need to use data from prior events and information gathered from your threat/hazard vulnerability study. Failure to keep your scenarios and simulation realistic is to plan for failure in your exercise program. Remember, and exercise should border on realism… realism, with a hint of dramatic flair.
What can an exercise be used to accomplish? What should an exercise accomplish?
While many people claim that it exercised only tests a plan, I believe your exercise can accomplish much, much more. You can use an exercise or simulation to actually evaluate the plan as is the common occurrence. Did you know you can actually use your simulations or exercises to create a structure for plan? That's right, run and exercise, something simple, something that your people will not be overly stressed by. Evaluate how they respond. Based on the response (the impromptu actions) of your personnel, you may be able to see innovative ways of managing the situation that you hadn't thought of before. Turn this innovation into a plan. This unusual use of the planning and exercise process will help you as the emergency manager/planner think outside the box when dealing with crisis situations. Of course, you can always use an exercise or simulation to update or test a change in your plan.
Regardless of how you use your exercise design and planning program make sure you're following these steps:
Start with seminars.Seminars are basically introductory meetings where you introduce the information you want to test or train on. There are low stress low-impact situations and are often thought of as synonymous with briefings.
The drill tests one specific function of a plan. They are focused on one activity or a small group of activities. They can have various levels of stress or realism, but in general do not tax too heavily on the personnel or resources involved. I typically do not recommend a high level of realism, stress, or time pressure when conducting initial drills.
Tabletop exercises.These types of exercises are my absolute favorite of all the exercise design possibilities. A tabletop exercise allows you to formulate a scenario and manipulate the situation as it goes. Based on your scenario you can add is much time pressure and stress is the group will allow. You can add certain messages (also known as injects) to the situation to keep it on track or further challenge the participants.
The full scale functional exercise is the grandfather of the exercise design program.
During these types of activities you actually deploy personnel and resources to your simulated situation. Full scale functional exercises can take months to years to plan… these are not events that should be planned and carried out overnight.
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