The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina Lessons Learned (February, 2006) recommended that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) establish a National Exercise and Evaluation Program (NEEP). By extension, the NEEP designated the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) as a way to standardize exercise planning and execution across governmental levels and sectors.
Not all nongovernmental organizations use HSEEP in full or even partially. However, communities, states, and various federal agencies are expected to adopt and employ its tenets. Certainly, it provides the standard that is employed in the National Exercise Program (NEP). The HSEEP provides a standardized methodology for planners to use in designing, developing, conducting, evaluating, and improving exercises and training.
The HSEEP also serves as an extensive resource, replete with useful tools, templates, and examples for building exercises and determining training needs, creating training events, and assessing the merits of all related activities. As you know or are learning, training and exercises are ideally integrated, not merely linked.
What is the difference between these concepts of linked and integrated? Exercises that are linked to training may (or may not) draw directly or indirectly from training drills and events. Exercises that integrate training are considerably more dynamic, with training occurring as the exercise unfolds. This latter technique better develops critical thinking, problem-solving, leadership, and decision-making abilities as well.
The following illustration should clarify this benefit:
Soldiers and law enforcement personnel routinely attend weapons ranges to practice and qualify on their assigned weapons. This training helps them to maintain proficiency or improve in their individual skills. Consider an exercise that links this specific training to other training. The soldiers are completing a special obstacle course in which they run, climb rope ladders, swing over water obstacles, etc.
Sometime during the course, they shoot at targets and then dismantle weapons under timed conditions and must achieve a certain score on their target hits. There is linkage to firing weapons accurately to the overall stress-inducing obstacle course.
Integrating the weapons training might look like the following: Soldiers, equipped with laser-emitting weapons, and wearing special sensors on their helmets and vests, commence to move in tactical formations proceeding through wooded (or desert, jungle, etc.) environments. Another group of soldiers, also equipped with special weapons and sensors, plays the opposing force.
The two groups engage in realistic combat operations requiring accurate weapons fire, plus evasive movement, simulated first aid, evacuation of casualties, and other assorted requirements. In this case, firing a weapon potentially has an offensive and defensive role, yet is one part of a whole scenario. (You might substitute law enforcement training for an active shooter scenario, or firefighters directing the main water supply at a fire, as other examples.)
The HSEEP describes the preparedness cycle extensively. As you review HSEEP’s volumes, you will read more about this cycle in Volume 1, Chapter 4. Like most planning cycles, the preparedness cycle includes (among other steps) stages of planning, exercising, evaluating and improving plans. These steps are fairly common within planning cycles for what should be obvious reasons.
Plans require a careful and comprehensive approach. Once they are complete, they must be exercised as thoroughly and realistically as possible. During and after exercises, observations and lessons must be collected, assessed, and most importantly, acted upon. These actions should include the refinement or modification of the initial plans, as necessary. Then the cycle begins again.
Too often, managers and leaders are satisfied with the initial establishment of plans that remain untested, are never properly validated, or do not undergo regular review and revision. Well-designed exercises of plans can solve all of these insufficiencies.
Yet, exercises take expertise to develop, cost money to execute, and require time to prepare for and conduct. Again, the HSEEP is an excellent resource to aid homeland security professionals in selecting and conducting relevant training, and for developing appropriate and realistic exercises.
Take into consideration the following scenario:
You are still a planner with the County Office of Emergency Management. Since your arrival, you have reviewed all of the plans that the office maintains. The director has asked you for your candid assessment on the county’s plans; he requests that you select one plan as a priority for the planning team to focus upon, and one you can also use as an illustration for how plans should be designed, exercised, evaluated, and refined.
You have decided to choose a subject-specific plan rather than the county’s broader emergency operations plan. You will select your illustrative plan from those pertaining specially to pandemic influenza preparedness, information sharing, critical infrastructure identification and protection, or continuity of operations. In simulating your county’s plan, consider it potentially inadequate, having never been tested or refined, and being at least seven years old.
For your assignment, using any program or media resource(s), you will prepare a formal presentation (complete with extensive notes) that educates and trains your county EM colleagues. Complete the following steps:
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