In today’s environment there are numerous types of major emergency incidents which may occur. It is critical not only have plans and preparations in place, but to test them as well. How does a manager of response and mitigation efforts at a company test procedures and preparations? An initial test is to conduct table top exercises with key personnel who will have many responsibilities during the incident. Whether you use an incident command structure or some other type of organizational structure to assist in controlling the chaos, it is important to evaluate. What information might be gained from this type of test? Given a specific scenario for your company you should be able to gather important information including potential hazards, vulnerabilities and impacts which might occur based on the incident. How will personnel respond under stress, what problem solving techniques work, how will you organize and structure a response with 10% of your employee population injured or needing assistance? Conducting initial table top exercises can be very effective in identifying areas of needed improvement.
Once table top exercises are running smoothly, a second step is to conduct a functional exercise. This can be as simple as a full evacuation to evaluate communications or sweeping techniques or it could include injured and trapped personnel, hazardous materials spills or leaks and other potentially challenging events. One company, in which we have been working with the last 7 years, has conducted annual full functional exercises. They started small and grew to conduct a full evacuation of all personnel at 2 sites simultaneously incorporating injured and trapped personnel, fires, hazardous materials incidents and so on. Every year they identified several instances where some event during the incident created a problem which was not preplanned for and problem solving became a priority.
At a minimum testing your plans, procedures and preparations will help you to grow and pre-identify key issues at your site to create a more positive and safe outcome.