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The Case for Exercises

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

Emergency exercises should be a key component of preparedness programs.

How many organizations/companies/agencies have you worked for that had an emergency preparedness program? How many of those had high-quality plans and procedures? Now for the tough question: how many of those had an exercise program to put it all to the test?

I thought as much.

Dwight Eisenhower is often quoted as saying, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” Like me, good old Ike borrowed that sentiment from Helmuth von Moltke, a pre-World War I Prussian military commander…but that is a discussion for another time. The point is that the military has understood this concept for a very long time. Personally, I believe that Mike Tyson boiled it down to a much more poetic, pointed sentiment: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

The question then becomes: How will you perform once your plan gets derailed? The only way to know, short of managing a serious emergency, is to continually practice and exercise. Speaking anecdotally, there are a lot of organizations out there that have solid plans and procedures that are shrink wrapped and placed on a shelf where they can point at them and say, “We’re ready for an emergency!” Sure, some of them do a few training sessions to familiarize key players with the plans, but once they finish the plans are set aside until the annual review. Unfortunately, when an emergency strikes those plans are not muscle memory and people revert to what they know; usually power struggles, heated debates, the phone numbers they happen to have in their phone, and the relationships that they leverage daily (even if they are not the right relationships to call upon.)

You see where I’m going with this. The pitfalls of emergency management exist in our failure to properly learn and own our weaknesses. Proper exercises force us to step out of our comfort zones where we can truly learn where we stand. No fault exercises allow us to analyze our performance to create action plans for improvement. This way when the emergency strikes you have the right relationships, you have the right phone numbers because you were burned by that during the exercise, you know how to organize in an efficient incident command structure. The benefits are innumerable.

Have a plan. Practice that plan. Continually improve. Be ready.

If you don’t know where to start or want to take your exercises to the next level we’re here to help you.

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