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Posted: September 14th, 2023

Streamlining Disaster Drill Procedures

Streamlining Disaster Drill Procedures
Effective disaster preparedness requires practice through regular drills and exercises. However, many organizations find that planning and executing full-scale drills can be an onerous task in terms of time and resources. This article explores strategies for streamlining drill procedures to make them more efficient and less disruptive while still achieving important preparedness objectives.
Subtitle: Focus on Key Objectives
When planning a drill, it is important to identify clear, measurable objectives that align with preparedness priorities (FEMA, 2020). For example, an objective may be to test communications protocols for notifying staff of an incident, or to evaluate evacuation procedures from a specific building. Maintaining a laser focus on a few high-priority objectives can help streamline a drill design. Complex, multi-objective drills that attempt to test every aspect of a response plan may become unwieldy and detract from evaluation of core capacities.
Subtitle: Limit Scope and Scale
Full-scale drills that involve activating the entire response system and deploying all resources can be valuable learning experiences but require extensive coordination and time commitment (Department of Homeland Security, 2016). When time and resources are limited, tabletop or functional drills that concentrate on a specific function or hazard scenario are better options. For example, conducting a tabletop exercise focused just on emergency notifications rather than a full evacuation drill. Limiting drill scope allows core objectives to be achieved with fewer participants and less planning burden.
Subtitle: Leverage Technology
Technology offers opportunities to streamline certain drill functions virtually. For example, videoconferencing tools can be used to conduct tabletop discussions remotely, avoiding the need for an in-person meeting space. Simulation software allows functional tests of procedures without full-scale resource deployment (Dooley et al., 2020). Pre-recorded videos or automated messages can simulate aspects of an incident to prompt participant responses without requiring live actors. When used judiciously, technology supports remote participation and “virtualizes” certain drill aspects to reduce logistical demands.
In summary, carefully defining objectives, limiting drill scope, and leveraging technology where possible are effective strategies for streamlining disaster preparedness drills. This allows core capabilities to be tested with fewer resources while still achieving important training goals. Regular practice, even on a smaller scale, is vital for organizational readiness.
Works Cited
Dooley, E., Seville, E., & Vargo, J. (2020). The use of virtual simulation tools for disaster preparedness and crisis management training and exercises. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 28(1), 86–95. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-5973.12271
Department of Homeland Security. (2016, December). National Exercise Program (NEP) Base Plan. https://www.fema.gov/sites/default/files/2020-07/national-exercise-program-base-plan_2016.pdf
FEMA. (2020, September). HSEEP Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program. https://www.fema.gov/sites/default/files/2020-04/hseep-2020-final.pdf

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