A few months back I received an email from a battalion chief who had just witnessed and participated in a large scale disaster mock exercise. His comments were sent to me a while ago but I chose to list them and work with them here today. His comments as submitted are here and highlighted and then I will make some additional comments after.
TRAINING. Are we training for real? Do we train as if it is the real thing or are we training and trying to cover our asses? I think that there are a lot of good training courses out there but when it comes time to be put to the actual test, we are not doing what we would normally do in the real emergency. I think that the time frame is totally lost during a training exercise. Train like you are going to the real thing and then critique yourselves. I think that you will get more out of that then faking the training and pretending that you are doing it properly. I am not against training at all, I just think that there needs to be more realistic time frames in what we do.
The training session and exercise that he witnessed had elaborate times and procedures which really did not make it realistic. Are your training sessions “real” or do you just go through the motions.
There are some significant issues that must be discussed and considered when doing training simulations. Some and many of those may hinder the operation but are absolutely necessary to provide safety to the incident and members participating.
* Paramount is the first thought that must be given when originally designing the exercise. What is your objective? Is it the purpose of this exercise or simulation to teach a procedure? Is it your intention to test a procedure? Those are really two different objectives and often times we confuse our original objectives.
* We should consider all aspects of responder safety as well as spectator and civilian impact. This would include but not be limited to civilian exposure by having apparatus respond vs. being staged close by.
* If live fire, smoke or simulated smoke is used, make sure there is adequate PPE provided.
* Make sure there is a medical EMS provision for the “actors” or participants should there be a real life emergency on scene.
* Make sure that the scenario is complicated enough to get the issues you want surfaced, but realistic enough to be believable. If your personnel don’t believe this is a real event they will not participate appropriately and then no learning will take place. It will only be an “act”, not a drill.
Think back on all of the “disaster” drill and mock exercises you have participated in. They don’t call them disaster drills for nothing!
Lots of planning should go into the mock simulations whether they are tabletop or full scale field drills. The amount of planning and thought that goes in up front will yield the results that come out the other end.
If anyone has any ideas they would like to share with the group about successful ways to provide realistic training, please feel free to submit them and we will share them here.