In emergency management and homeland security we put a lot of emphasis on planning. Plans are important, afterall. We need to take the time to identify what our likely hazards are and how we will address them. But what happens when the plan is complete? We congratulate members of the planning team and send them final copies. Those copies get filed electronically or end up on a shelf, a trophy of our accomplishment and hard work. Congratulations!
So… that’s it? Is that all?
NO! Of course not! People need to be trained to the plan. “Trained?” you ask. Yes – trained. Not just sent a copy and told to review it. Let’s be honest, here. Even assuming the highest degree of dedication and professionalism, many people simply won’t give it the time and attention it needs. Very quickly the plan will get buried on their desks or the email will become one of dozens or hundreds in the inbox. Even if they do give it a look through, most will only give a quick pass through the pages between meetings (or during a meeting!), not giving much attention to the details in the plan.
How effective do you expect people to be?
Sports analogy – when a coach creates new plays, do they simply give them to the players to become familiar with and expect proficiency? No. Of course not. We’re all familiar with the classic, if not cliché, setting of the coach reviewing plays on a chalk board with the players in a locker room. That’s training. Then after that training, they go out in the field and practice the plays.
Back to our reality… The first real step of making people familiar with the plan is to review it with them. This usually doesn’t need to be a sleep inducing line-for-line review of the plan (unless it is a detailed procedure), but a review of the concepts and key roles and responsibilities. In fact, that’s who you invite to the training – those who are identified in the plan. This is likely to include people in your own agency as well as people in other agencies (emergency management, after all, is a collaborative effort). In states with strong county governments, we often see county-level emergency management offices creating plans that dictate or describe the activities of local governments and departments. Most often, the local departments have no awareness of these plans, much less receive any training on them. I’m guessing that plan won’t work.
Once you’ve trained these key stakeholders, be sure to conduct exercises on various aspects of the plan. Exercises serve not only to validate plans, but to also help further familiarize stakeholders with the plan, their roles, and expectations of others. When we plan, we tend to make many assumptions which exercises help to work through. Through exercising we also identify other needs we may have.
Need help with planning? Training? Exercises? EPS can do it! Link below.
© 2016 – Timothy Riecker