One of the myths of our industry is that an emergency exercise needs to take half a day, plus an hour or two of preparation training the week before. This view is incorrect and a common misconception. Exercises can take as little as one hour.
Exercises are hypothetical emergencies which an organisation and its team members must respond. For this reason, they are sometimes referred to as “simulations”. The purpose of simulations is to test an organisation’s systems, emergency plans, allow team members to put into practice their knowledge, and identify opportunities to improve. After action reviews frequently confirm that experience gained during exercises is the best way to prepare teams to respond effectively to a real-world emergency.
To give you an example, we previously completed an exercise that satisfied an energy regulator in one hour for gas transmission pipelines and upstream gas supply injections. We did so by having a narrow focus and testing a single objective.
In this case, there as a previous emergency which lead to potential public safety issues. The incident was undetected for some hours as the safety protocol failed. A protocol and updated technology were put in place to avoid a recurrence, and the point of the exercise was to understand whether the changes were successful in preventing a recurrence. We are pleased to report that the protocol worked, and the client met their objective. Success was no guarantee, however. If staff were unable to meet the goal, a training gap would be evident. But that is the point of the exercise. It is always better to fail in a simulation and implement improvements than during a real emergency. To our and the client’s delight, the exercise was complete in one hour and met the safety regulator and company’s annual exercising requirement.
The one-hour exercise is a method to assist businesses in meeting their annual regulatory target. We know many companies are requesting deferrals from their regulators, as their staff are fatigued from COVID-19 response, and most people remain out of the office. Ironically, the effort a business might expend to request a dispensation, of which there is no guarantee, might be greater than conducting an hour exercise.
In addition to meeting regulatory requirements, an exercise might identify possible improvement opportunities or business efficiencies. For a nominal investment, a business could improve its processes, save money, and protect their staff, the company, and the broader community from a potential emergency or crisis.
As the time commitment is less, the cost of planning and conducting the one-hour exercise is proportionate. Many businesses are tight on budget and time; the pandemic only compounds this position. Hence, we produce our simulations with the client’s circumstances in front of mind. We can conduct these exercises over Zoom, Teams or your desired platform.
Please feel free to discuss with us how to progress a quick exercise and meet your regulatory obligations.