Exercises are essential to validate operational plans, assess response capabilities, reinforce training, and identify opportunities for improvement. For hospitals, minimum exercise requirements are defined by The Joint Commission’s Emergency Management Chapter accreditation standards, specifically, EM.03.01  Details can be found in the standard.

Steps to conducting a successful exercise include:

1. Assess Organizational/Departmental Needs

Before developing an exercise, your organization/department should review their current procedures, as well as areas for improvement, noted in past exercises to determine which response procedure (i.e. Severe Weather, Fire, Evacuation, etc.) would benefit from an evaluation.  The organization’s Hazard Vulnerability Assessment may be helpful to exercise planners in their exercise scenario selection.

 2. Develop the Exercise (details and tools)

An exercise can be simple or complex. The key to a successful emergency response exercise is to use likely disaster scenarios that will evaluate core capabilities.  The exercise scope and objectives should be established before the exercise is developed.

Exercise Plans

3. Establish Evaluation Criteria (details and tools)

Evaluation is the process of observing and recording exercise activities, comparing the performance of the participants against the objectives, and identifying strengths and weaknesses.  Clear and measurable criteria should be established before the start of the exercise to ensure that a thorough evaluation is conducted.

4. Conduct the Exercise

The  Exercise Director will initiate, manage and conclude the exercise to ensure that the exercise objectives are met.

5. Document and Identify Lessons Learned (details and tools)

The strengths and areas for improvement found during the exercise should be identified and documented.

6. Complete Improvement Items

Improvement recommendations identified in the exercise should be tracked and documented through to completion.

Need More?

Harvard Exercise Evaluation Toolkit

For further information, please see the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) webpage.