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  • Writer's pictureAkshat Patni

Brrrnnnngggggg – the alarm bells sound… emergency!!

Updated: Oct 7, 2019

Even for the most seasoned and trained individual the ring of an alarm still elevates one’s heart rate!  What do you do now? That is the question.Do you react on instinct implementing the plan or do you scramble to figure out what you need to do?

So how do we prepare?  We conduct an Emergency Drill!!

Remember – when disaster strikes, the time to prepare has passed” – Steven Cyros

What is a drill?  Drills are supervised activities that test, develop, or maintain skills in a single response procedure, and the possible/probable interaction with local government agency functions.  They help prepare for more complex exercises in which functions are coordinated and tested.

There are many reasons to conduct a drill: 1) its never been done before, 2) there is a new plan or procedure, 3) there is new staff or leadership, 4) there is a new facility or system, 5) there is a newly identified threat, or 6) there is a new assisting local or regulatory agency.

There are many different levels of drills and exercises to conduct depending on what you want to test and the complexity of your potential emergency:

Basic Drill Tests a single aspect of a program such as a fire drill, evacuation drill or testing emergency phone numbers.Tabletop Exercise Integrates several drill considerations by simulating an emergency situation in an informal environment.It promotes discussion as participants examine problems based on existing plan documents.Functional Exercise Fully simulated interactive exercise.Tests one or more functions in a time pressured situation focusing on policies, procedures, roles and responsibilities. Full-Scale Exercise Tests total response capability by evaluating the operational capability of emergency systems in an interactive manner.Involves mobilization of emergency personnel.

Be prepared for your drill. The following steps may help you in developing your Emergency Drill:

Assess needs – What needs to be tested? How much prep time and resources will be needed?Define the Scope – Identify the top 1 or 2 high priority threats to the site. What functions need to be tested? What type of drill will you conduct? Write a Statement of Purpose.

Purpose and Objectives

“The purpose of the Critical Incident Exercise is to evaluate the following emergency function by involving these personnel______ and agencies______ in a _____________ (exercise type)…simulating a _____________ (threat)…at ___________ (geographic location).”

Compose a Narrative – Detail what will be drilled. Build a scenario around it with specific examples of the threat you will be testing. Include a list of expected people involved.

Identify Expected Actions – The expected actions depend on your scenario. This list allows you to guide and evaluate the drill results. The site HASP or Emergency Response Plan are good resources for your expectations.Document, Debrief, Share Lessons – Plan to conduct a post drill meeting. Document what was tested and how it went. Delegate action items for area of improvement. Share what you learned!! Plan the next drill.

You may be amazed what you discover during a drill. Sometimes the most unexpected people fall apart when a the drill starts.  You may discover that the training people have on emergencies isn’t remembered when it comes time to act. You may discover that your plan has holes that you didn’t anticipate (see below).  This is why we have drills.  Or, you may confirm that everyone knows what to do and who to call… which is the good news if those skills are actually needed.

So when is your next drill?

EXAMPLE FINDING: A few years ago I was involved in a project in tornado alley.  There were 50 people onsite, and we planned for everyone to muster into the only sub-grade basement on site if needed.  We practiced this to make sure everyone would fit, and during the drill we asked, “What do you see missing?”  We had water, some food, flash lights, but the answer we got was easily overlooked.  “Where do we go to the bathroom?”

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