Developing Your Exercise Objectives
Roger Mason PhD
One of the first steps in improving your emergency exercises is developing clear set of objectives. Some people believe that planning an emergency exercise is simple and the mere fact that an exercise is being held will provide valuable lessons for everyone involved. With shrinking budgets training exercises should be treated as a precious commodity. Having clear objectives for your exercise will help you get the most out it.There are four points regarding the objectives of your exercise that should be considered.
You exercise objectives must be in context. By context I mean they should be aligned with your priorities for improving your emergency readiness. Having a full functional exercise regarding a terrorist incident on a commuter train when you are predicting a severe hurricane season is probably out of context. While terrorism can strike anywhere the probability of a hurricane is greater.
They must be in context with your capabilities. If you are a small college or university having an exercise combining a mass casualty event with a crisis management drill is probably beyond your immediate capabilities. Keeping your objectives in context means training for things that are likely to happen within your capabilities to respond to them.
The next consideration for your objectives is this exercise achievable. This is important on several levels. Do you have the resources to achieve all of the goals you have set for the exercise? Is what you are attempting in a simulated emergency something you could reasonable achieve during a real incident?
Your exercise objectives should be measurable. This means the objectives should include factors which can be measured to indicate a change of condition before and after the exercise. Being measurable means your objectives should include benchmarks that help you to understand the outcomes of your exercise.
Some of the easiest factors to measure are skills and knowledge. Can your team successfully employ a technology or system involved in the exercise? A good example is your mass communications system. Can your team members log on, access the prepared message menu, and send a simulated message? This type of objective can tell you if your team just carries a log in password or if they are actually prepared to access and employ the system.
It is important not to overwhelm an exercise with too many objectives and try to accomplish too much. Still a thoughtful planner can include learning and testing at many layers within the exercise. A good example is an exercise that includes the use of a specific technology, offers some decision making by various participants, and includes a specific group activity like a casualty evacuation. By carefully planning and evaluating what can be accomplished it is possible to include training and learning at several levels.
Emergency exercises should be purposeful events. Training time is limited and you want to get the greatest benefit. Having clear objectives for your exercise can increase the value of the training time. Your emergency exercise should be carefully planned and executed. Having carefully considered objectives is critical to achieving this.