Top 10 Guide for Response Plan Exercises

Not every response plan exercise is equal - we share our best practices for crafting corporate preparedness exercises.

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Corporate preparedness exercises should be designed to test response plan components and practice response management practices, including team roles, response strategies and tactics. Yet, corporate culture and their concerns about public perceptions often reject the ideology of growth through failure. An exercise should support a positive response team synergy by validating successes, yet create a path to increased response capabilities and improve targeted training efforts. Exercises should be utilized and perceived as tools for continuous improvement.

Response Plan Exercise Guidelines

Key guidelines for an effective Response Plan Exercise include, but are not limited to:

  1. Select exercise objectives based on the specific audience in attendance, and their level of experience
  2. Discuss exercise objectives with participants so that everyone is focused and understands the intent and purpose.
    • Detailed scenario information, ICS forms, and position specific events should be prepared in advance to guide all participants through the execution of their roles and responsibilities. These tools should be included in a participation package and distributed to all participants prior to the exercise
  3. Design scenarios to be realistic, with a level of detail consistent with objectives, and time allotted to conduct the exercises.
    • In order to exercise the emergency scenario, the exercise must progress in a condensed time-frame (not real-time). Events should move rapidly through some phases of the exercised response. However, it should be clearly understood that under real conditions the same events or actions would require much more time to complete
  4. The objectives of the exercise may vary depending on the participants’ key functions, and may include, but not be limited to testing public affairs procedures, equipment deployment, response procedures, emergency notifications, communications processes, among others.
  5. Exercise participants should initially be limited to company personnel, until they have sufficient experience to respond effectively. Once the team is trained in this process, and perhaps have received additional ICS or NIMS training, participation by outside parties (including LEPC, fire and police department, state and federal response agencies, corporate team representatives, and response contractors) can be extremely valuable.
  6. Determine the most appropriate type of exercise to best suit objectives and budget: tabletop, command post, or training.
  7. Interject situations during the exercise to ensure that all participants are engaged and challenged. An Inject describes an event or circumstance that requires a response or action from the participant.
    • Depending on the scenario, and how much a factor weather is, either real or simulated weather conditions may be utilized during the exercise
  8. Ensure that exercise participants maintain documentation throughout the event, and utilize this information for debriefing and final report.
    • “This is a Drill” Exercise Communications: All radio, telephone, fax and written communications must begin and end with the statement "This Is A Drill". Include this statement in all verbal communications, and in a prominent location on all written correspondence, including report forms, fax communications, and press releases
    • "This Is A Drill" Communications with Non-Participating Parties: Communications with external agencies, contractors, medical responders, or other parties not participating directly in an exercise must begin and end with the statement ,"This Is A Drill". This may involve state or federal regulatory notifications or contact with suppliers or vendors to source simulated logistical needs. In all cases, exercise
  9. Ensure that timely final reports are completed, with lessons learned and action items documented.
    • Following termination of the exercise, a debriefing of all exercise participants should be conducted. All participants should have the opportunity to provide feedback on the exercise and complete an exercise evaluation form
  10. Determine action items and update response plan with lessons learned. Exercises provide insight into the deficiencies in an emergency response plan. In order to take response efforts to the next level, action items resulting from the exercises should be completed in a timely manner.

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