U.S. Capitol training exercise highlights need to ensure crisis plans work

The joint training exercise held Monday morning at the U.S. Capitol grounds emphasized for business leaders the importance of testing their crisis management plans, policies and procedures to ensure that ‘they will work when needed.

Today’s exercise, which involved federal, state, and local agencies, took place five months after the Jan.6 uprising on Capitol Hill and was expected to involve low-flying helicopters as well as personnel and vehicles from ’emergency. US Park Police, Fairfax County Police, Metropolitan Police Department, DC Fire and EMS, and US Department of Defense participated in the exercise along with the United States Capitol Police.

U.S. Capitol Police and Congressional officials did not immediately respond to a request for details about the exercise, such as the size, scope, or scenario that served as the basis for the exercise.

Lessons in crisis management

The January riots provided several crisis management lessons for business leaders, including the importance of knowing the facts about a crisis, having an emergency plan and plans, and having a chain of effective and responsive command.

Today’s exercise provided other crucial lessons: the importance of preparing for the next crisis; test crisis management plans, procedures, policies and response teams to ensure they will work when needed; and learn from your mistakes to ensure they don’t happen again in the next crisis.

Don’t neglect any stone

According to a 2019 survey by CS&A International and PR News, around 62% of companies had crisis plans, although it is not known how many updated them regularly. Almost 60% of middle and senior managers surveyed said they had never conducted a crisis exercise or were not sure how often their companies held exercises.

Lindsay Singleton, Managing Director of public affairs firm ROKK Solutions, said: “Pressure testing your crisis plan ensures that nothing is left to chance when it comes to dealing with real events. Every exercise I have participated in has resulted in unexpected gaps that needed to be addressed, whether caused by structural deficiencies or external factors. The goal should be crisis mitigation, not crisis response.

“The reality is that organizations operate in a constantly changing environment. Employees change, external environments change, jobs evolve. Vulnerabilities are not static, which is why crisis plans should not be seen as one-off. They should be living documents, adapted to reflect the realities of the business environment, ”Singleton said.

“These exercises also build muscle memory. Knowing your role in a crisis is essential to reacting effectively, as is knowing who to coordinate with. Like any muscle, seizure preparation will atrophy without use, ”she advised.

Develop skills and reflexes

Caroline Sapriel is the managing partner of CS&A International, a crisis management and training firm. She said that although the plans, “… detail the response process, only practice and testing will develop the skills and reflexes needed in real life and highlight the gaps that need to be filled. before a crisis occurs. There are a range of practice and crisis testing options, in person or virtual, and each should be assessed against defined goals. “

“If response teams are deployed together on site in real life, as police and emergency services would, then in-person exercises are very beneficial and preferable. In this case, the tactical response is positioned in situ supported by emergency operational coordination which generally assembles off site. Thus, exercises simulating this reality offer maximum learning and testing capacity for all stakeholders. “

Factors to consider

Sapriel said: “At the strategic level however, when members of the crisis management team, C-suites or boards of directors are rarely together physically in the same place in real life, the virtual exercises simulate reality. more closely than in person and this option is recommended.

“Another factor to consider when choosing in-person versus virtual is the maturity of the team or participating teams. Even at the highest level, a novice team should start by training in person to develop essential team building skills, observe and learn. [from] each other as well as the coaches or facilitators leading the session.

“Once trained, and if the team members aren’t normally in one place, then the virtual format is optimal. The pandemic has moved things forward and we have received consistently positive feedback from exercise participants from all sectors for virtual simulations over the past 10 years, ”she observed.

Testing responses to different scenarios

As I wrote in an article last October, “Rather than suppose their plans will work, Project HOPE runs drills and drills to test them. “… We conducted an abduction and crisis communications exercise, as well as a 3-day humanitarian crisis response exercise on our campus in partnership with Johns Hopkins and Humanitarian U which included many students,” Rabih said. Torbay, President and CEO of Project HOPE. me.

After each exercise, Project HOPE applies what they have learned to strengthen and improve their plans. Torbay noted that, “Every time we do any of these exercises, we adjust the plan a little bit based on what worked and what didn’t. What we have learned is that these plans are good tools, but they are not the solution. They help you remember what you should and shouldn’t do, based on best practices and experience. However, no two situations are the same and, therefore, [there is] no perfect plan.

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