Exercising Your Plan, Part II

How to conduct and evaluate an emergency management exercise.


Immediately after the completion of any exercise is a "hot wash" debriefing. The purpose of the hot wash is to discuss any potential life-safety conditions or lessons learned that should be acted upon immediately. The hot wash is led by a facilitator that has the key players of the exercise give their quick recap of what they observed during the exercise, and to document the strengths and weakness of what has just occurred. All of the comments and observations are documented so they may be included in the after action report (AAR). The hot wash also allows the players to state their observations while it is fresh in their minds. At the completion of the hot wash, the participants can also complete the evaluation forms. The purpose of the hot wash is not to criticize any agency or individual, but to learn from it. Remember, this is a no-fault exercise. Besides the overall hot wash, each participating functional group should have their own functional groups' specific debriefing, addressing issues unique to their own discipline. These functional specific debriefings are conducted by the controller who oversaw that group during the exercise.

Once all the feedback, evaluation forms, and EEGs are received, the AAR can be completed. The AAR addresses if the objectives of the exercise were met, not just how well everyone performed. The AAR focuses on how the systems or agencies performed, more so than on any individual.

The AAR should contain the evaluation of the different agencies' response to the exercise scenario and the adherence to existing policies and procedures. The AAR also needs to address any problems, whether they were the results of the exercise plan design or the performance of the participants. Good or bad, all actions need to be recorded in the AAR so the exercise can be properly judged.

The final component of the AAR is the recommendations for improvement. This section takes the lessons learned from the exercise and incorporates them into future planning and plan maintenance to learn from the exercise. Once the AAR is completed, it is distributed to all participating agency of the exercise and the governing officials of the jurisdiction where the exercise took place.

Once the improvements and the lessons learned from the exercise are put into use, you can start planning for your next exercise.

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