An Argument for Unannounced (Virtual) Drills

An Argument for Unannounced (Virtual) Drills

An Argument for Unannounced (Virtual) Drills. Events can be separated into two categories – conventional and unconventional.  Conventional events happen all the time; we plan for their likelihood, stock equipment and materials, and train accordingly.  These events because we’ve prepared for them are usually managed pretty effectively.

Unconventional events, on the other hand are just that – unconventional.  The thought is they are rare events and that traditional mechanism will work.  Both are simply not true. Just read the paper or watch the news.  Rare events happen all the time.  When was the last time you heard a newscaster say, “That was a thousand year event”?  Due to the complex nature of today’s societies, an unconventional event overwhelms resources from the onset and an impact on more than one portion of society; such as, the energy sector directly affects the banking sector or transportation sector and so on.  This ripple effect will become even more pronounced in the future as societies and communities increase in population due to the migration from agriculture to the city.

An unconventional event in the 21st century presents us with several opportunities, 1) we have to change our mindset in the way we train, and 2) in the way we evaluate the training.  The current philosophy for training senior leadership is we “plan the work and work the plan”.  This works great for conventional events, but for unconventional events it doesn’t.  Catastrophic events or “worst case” occurrences take on a different perspective and therefore require a different view.

Using the mindset, “we’ll just follow the plan”, already causes a negative start OODA Loop, loss of situational awareness and a loss of control from the onset.  The community at large will require thinking, learning and planning that differentiate between “preparedness” and “readiness”.  Therefore, we need to change the paradigm in the way we train senior leaders.  We need to prepare them with a level of “readiness”[1], so that they can affront any situation, whether it’s conventional or unconventional because they’ll know what to do.

This holds true for senior leaders, difference makers and the troops on the ground, if you will.  Everyone needs to be trained using the “learn through failure” module.  This allows first, second and third echelon responders to adapt and address any situation regardless of its nature.

In turn, evaluation of the training becomes even more critical.  The current mindset that we’ll conduct an exercise and use it to train folks is ineffective.  Exercises need to be design to evaluate previously conducted training and drills.  By their very nature they are cumbersome.  In an effort to engage the community and not disrupt day-to-day activities, we announced them ahead of time, schedule overtime for the participants and make most of it notional.  Exercises don’t really become an effective method of evaluation because for the most part they’re staged.

To prove this point, a recent “active shooter” exercise at a college on the east coast was conducted during Spring Break so as to not disrupt classes.  It provided very little evaluation value.  But the box got checked.  How, sad?!

To be truly useful, exercises need to be unannounced, realistic and comprehensive.  All levels of the command and control team, from the CEO to the security forces, need to be involved in the response phase for it to be effective.  Additionally, other members of the organization, those not directly involved, can be very effective in assisting with the response, if they are also trained properly on; what constitutes unwanted behavior, when to report it, whom to report it to and what information is needed when they do sound the alarm.

During the Drills and Exercise Planning and Development workshop attendees will learn the in’s and out’s of evaluating training plans and conducting table-top and full scale exercises.  Those responsible for conducting training, drills and exercises from the civilian and government worlds will met in Jackson Hole, WY  29 to 31 August.  This workshop is H-SEEP compliant and fulfills requirements mandated by the Post Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act, Public Law 109-29, for “use of live, virtual, and constructive (LVC) simulations for training, exercises, and command and control functions at the operational level”.

During the workshop, attendees will be able to create their home environment by using a 3-d module simulator.  This will allow them to train for “unconventional” events that they wouldn’t necessarily be able to train for because their limited resources are going toward training on events that are “most likely to occur”.  This in turn, saves resources for “active player” scenario driven exercises.

The training prepares senior decision makers, elected officials emergency managers, emergency response providers, and supports providers at all levels of government to operate cohesively.  It exposes community leaders and emergency managers to exercise decision-making under realistic conditions using a simulated environment and provides a learning environment useful for homeland security personnel.

To register for Drills and Exercise Planning and Development go to  or contact us at or call +1 8505 509-8655.  Early registration deadline is 22 June.

Related article about Simulated Crisis Management and Response Tool (SCMaRT) here:

The North American Simulation and Evaluation Center (NASEC) and European Simulation and Validation Center (ESVC) are the co-sponsors of this 3-day workshop.  More about NASEC and ESVC .

[1] Unconventional Crisis and the Readiness Factor, presentation by CDR James E. Beakley, USN/Ret, Apr 2015 at ISC-West