HAP Blog

Why Exercising Keeps Your Capabilities Sharp

Outside perspectives help prepare for crises inside your facility

November 01, 2022

When you think about the time we spend on the various phases of emergency management, you quickly learn that most of our effort resides in the preparedness phase. 

Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, we spend the least amount of time in the response phase. This might be a good indicator, as it means we aren’t regularly affected by some type of disaster or emergency. Still, it can make it challenging to determine if the plans we’ve made are any good.

Sometimes in emergency management, the best laid plans are unused, and that’s why it’s so important to perform exercises to learn our strengths and weaknesses. Here are three things to consider to get the most out of your emergency exercises.

Test your plans

If we only waited for disasters to strike in order to test our plans, we wouldn’t really give ourselves much opportunity to succeed. Of course, we don’t do that, or at least we try our best not to.

Instead, we utilize exercises to give our plans a chance to be tested in an “as close as possible” environment to see what works, but more importantly what doesn’t. Those gaps can drive our future plan development and help us get to the point where we have high confidence in our ability to respond.

After action and improvement planning

During an emergency drill, you need to be a keen observer. Are your staff able to reach the right people at the right time? How long does it take to initiate your response plans? Where did you succeed and where did the plan break down?

We need to identify those deficiencies and incorporate changes into our plan revisions. To do so, you need to be sure you have a solid process for After Action Review/Improvement Planning (AAR/IP).  We know this process is a critical part of our emergency management, as it gives us the advantage to identify weaknesses and incorporate the lessons learned.

The value of outside perspectives

But how can you be sure you capture those gaps during exercising? Well, we need to evaluate the performance and record the results.

If you are a “one-person team” as is the case in many hospital EM programs, you might feel pressure to not only develop your exercise but also to evaluate it. This may get the job done, but it’s pretty tough to be your own critic. Consciously and subconsciously, you just might not be in a good position to clearly see gaps and areas for improvement.

This is where third-party evaluators are so valuable. Reach out to your partner agencies and community resources to find individuals who can give you the objective perspective you need. You want evaluators who:

  • Have knowledge and expertise in the exercise subject matter
  • Are not heavily embedded in your system or hospital culture
  • Are trustworthy and won’t hesitate to offer their opinions about strengths and weaknesses. 

Process this feedback, along with your own, and use it to develop goals that can be included in your AAR/IP.  By doing so, you can be sure to capture real gaps and the steps you can take to fill them.

The HAP Emergency Management team, as an integral part of your state hospital membership services organization, can provide subject matter expert evaluators for your next emergency exercise or drill at no additional cost to your hospital. Contact us to discuss your needs for your next emergency drill. The HAP EM Team looks forward to helping ensure you’re ready for your next emergency.



Emergency preparedness exercise

Emergency preparedness exercise

Members of the HAP Emergency Management team participated in an active shooter exercise at Evangelical Hospital in Lewisburg on September 29,, 2022.  The full-scale exercise simulated an active shooter event at the hospital-affiliated Miller Center and tested the ability of local responders and Evangelical Hospital to manage the emergency. Chris Chamberlain, Vice President, HAP Emergency Management and Jason Tomashunas, Manager, HAP Emergency Management served as exercise evaluators and provided feedback on the drill to the hospital exercise planning team. HAP member organizations can benefit from the HAP Emergency Management staff who are available to assist and support hospital and health system emergency management programs onsite. Contact the HAP EM team at HAPEM@haponline.org.

emergency management exercise

Pictured here are (L-R): Jason Tomashunas, Manager, Emergency Management; HAP, Matt Exley, Manager, Environmental Safety and Security Evangelical Community Hospital; and Chris Chamberlain, Vice President, Emergency Management HAP.

Please login or register to post comments.