Top Ten Tips for Flood Emergency Planning Exercises

Why should you undertake a Flood Emergency Exercise?

An exercise simulates an incident or emergency, and provides the opportunity to:

  • TRAIN your staff and/or members of the community
  • EXERCISE a plan
  • EVALUATE an individual, organisational and/or community response.

The evaluation can then help validate and improve existing emergency plans and establish a targeted Action Plan.

Training and exercising should be undertaken in a controlled and safe learning environment before a real event, to identify existing good practice and areas for improvement. This helps improve preparation and increases confidence and competence amongst responding staff.

From our extensive experience in delivering training and exercising for a range of Category 1 and 2 responders, here are our Top Ten Tips you should consider…

Our Top Ten Tips for Flood Emergency Exercising

1: Have realistic and achievable aims
Aims and objectives that are too broad could lead to an Armageddon-scale event and serve no training benefit. Keep it simple and achievable.

2: Establish a codename
Creating a codename is one of the fun parts of designing an exercise, but it also serves an important purpose. The codename must prefix all communications during the exercise to ensure the simulated incident is not mistaken for a real emergency! We have been involved in exercises with codenames such as Exercise Occam’s Razor and Exercise BlackBlade.

3: Consult when designing scenarios
Talking to those who have experienced and responded to the chosen incident will help you plan realistic scenarios.

4: Improve staff confidence, do not undermine it
Improving the confidence of staff in their ability to undertake their role is often an objective of an exercise. To deliver an exercise which increases staff confidence, first establish the experience level of the participants. The scenarios should then be designed to test and build on this knowledge, and prove challenging without becoming overwhelming.

5: Have an observer
If all the delivery team are busy participating in the exercise, then the aim of the exercise can be overlooked. An observer can help capture off-the-cuff conversations and immediate responses which might otherwise be missed.

6: It’s not “just an exercise”…
Participants should treat an exercise like they would a real incident, and appreciate the value of being able to practice their response in a safe learning environment.

7: Don’t be afraid to go off script
We prepare a ‘main events’ list for every exercise, consisting of a timeline of every planned action and inject. However, the best-laid plans often go awry, and so the exercise should adapt to a participant’s actions or response, if it differs to what was expected. The ‘main events’ list is a guide and should remain flexible.

8: Debrief!
A debrief is essential to capture the thoughts of the participants on their performance as well as the organisation’s response. It also provides the opportunity to evaluate which elements worked well and which areas need to be improved.

9: Take action!
Exercising is one activity that forms part of the Emergency Preparedness Cycle and our blog post ‘Flood Emergency Plans: the what, when and why’ explores this. Incident plans should be reviewed and Action Plans agreed. The Action Plans prioritise areas for improvement and assign actions and timescales.

10: It doesn’t stop there
Training and exercising are not one-off activities. Plans will be updated and staff will change over time. This is why the Flood Preparedness Cycle is so important to ongoing development and understanding amongst those staff and teams that respond to an incident.

Want to know more?

For further information on the flood training and exercising service we deliver, please email our Lead for Flood Resilience, Phil Emonson, or call 01392 904040. You can also speak to the team at the Emergency Planning Society Annual Conference on 28 September at the Metropole Hotel, Llandrindod Wells, LD1 5DY.

Visit our Flood Emergency Planning web page to find out more and to watch a short video on JEMS, our emergency planning training and exercising platform.

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