It is important to ensure activities such as Planning and Exercising are undertaken to support continuous improvement, identifying strengths, areas for improvement, and options through exercising and evaluation assists agencies build capabilities and shapes or sustains future core capabilities.
In Tasmania State Special Emergency Management Plans (SSEMPs) outline the specific arrangements to manage the risks posed by a specific hazard. The Management Authority responsible for a specified hazard or event is responsible for undertaking planning for that hazard which includes Exercising the plan. The plan should cover all Prevention, Preparedness, Response and Recovery (PPRR) elements. In some cases, there may be sub-plans for extra levels of detail or associated plans to support arrangement delivery. Management Authorities manage these plans collaboratively in a ‘Plan, Implement, Review and Report’ cycle.
The Tasmanian Government Exercise Management process
The Tasmanian Government for Exercise Management process can be adapted to suit the type and scale of an Exercise. This approach is based on best practice Australian Exercise Management principles including those used by the Australia-New Zealand Counter Terrorism Committee (ANZCTC).
While acknowledging that each agency, particularly in the Emergency Management Sector, has its own processes for planning and conducting Exercises, the government recommends a structured approach to Exercise Management to:
- Ensure Exercises are coordinated and conducted in a consistent and systematic way
- Reduce duplication of Exercise Management activities within and across government agencies
- Maximise resource availability across agencies
- Learn from the findings of Exercises conducted across government (Lessons Management Processes).
An exercise is a controlled, objective-driven activity that is used to test or practise the plans, procedures or processes that are in place – or not – to manage an emergency or the capability of an organisation (or multiple organisations) to deal with a particular emergency situation. An exercise can range from small and simple (such as a planning group discussing an emergency plan) to large and complex (such as a major multi-agency event involving several organisations and participants enacting a real-life scenario).
- Exercising is an essential component of emergency preparedness and should be used to enhance the capability of an organisation contributing to continuous improvement.
- The outcome of exercises can also provide significant guidance to Emergency Management agencies and Municipal Councils during the review of plans and policies.
To be effective, exercises must be tailored to meet the identified need, stated aim and objectives, so they should be well planned, structured, managed and evaluated as part of a Lessons Management process. Exercises should be conducted at all levels and involve all relevant agencies and personnel, providing an opportunity to ensure that arrangements and plans are understood, robust, and that capabilities and resources are adequate to implement them.
- Testing and validating policies, plans, procedures, training, equipment and inter-agency arrangements
- Identifying training needs or gaps clarifying roles and responsibilities in Governance arrangements
- Improving inter-agency coordination and communication
- Identifying gaps in capabilities and resources
- Improving overall performance
- Identifying opportunities for improvement
- Building confidence and flexibility in people
- Providing opportunities for discussion and feedback
- Explore and evaluate elements of arrangements or plans
The Municipal Emergency Management Guidelines-MEMG explains that a validation includes any activity that is aimed at examining the effectiveness of current arrangements so that they can be confirmed, validated or otherwise. Validations can also be used as training/familiarisation activities and to improve relationships. Validation activities should reflect the real situation as much as possible to test properly that arrangements are adequate and to support training. A common method used for validating arrangements is to conduct an exercise. Other activities are:
- using the arrangements for an operation (with outcomes summarised in debrief reports)
- workshops, meetings or case studies
- familiarisations of specified areas/sites (e.g. walking through evacuation routes in a shopping complex).
Exercises used to validate emergency management plans (or parts of the plans) will generally be either discussion/desktop exercises or field deployment-style exercises. There are no legislated requirements to conduct validations, but they are an integral part of the emergency planning review process.
Phases of Exercise Management Phases
Exercises should also occur to explore planning, preparedness, response and recovery capabilities and capacity. Ideally Exercises should involve the community (eg. volunteers) or at least seek to explore and evaluate elements of arrangements or plans that require community involvement and communication.
The four phases of Exercise management are displayed in the model below and described in the accordion:
Considerations in the Concept Phase include:
- The first phase of Exercise Management is determining whether there is a need for an Exercise and developing a proposal to seek authority to proceed
- Once a need has been identified, and the need agreed, look at it carefully to determine if an Exercise is the most effective and efficient way to meet that need
- It may be that there are other more appropriate solutions such as training, education or developing and communicating a new procedure
- Check whether a similar Exercise has been run in the past by your agency or by another and review the Exercise Evaluation Report for any lessons learned before you start.
Considerations in the Planning Phase include:
- The size and composition of the Exercise Planning Team will vary with the size, type and complexity of the planned Exercise
- In a large Exercise there may be a number of sub-teams working on specific functions, while in smaller
- Exercises a small team might perform several functions, or one person might manage the whole process
- Consider the functions of each role and ensure that relevant issues are considered in the planning
- The type and complexity of the Exercise will dictate the size of the planning team.
The people who run the Exercise are known as ‘Exercise Control (EXCON) Team’. Their role is to ensure the Exercise is conducted in a safe and effective manner. Considerations when conducting an Exercise include:
- For small Exercises, the EXCON Team may be just one person or a small team. A generic Exercise control structure, highlighting the functions to be considered (whether by one person or a team)
- For a large Exercise, many people may be required to fill the various functions required. An example of a generic Exercise control structure for a large Exercise.
Your formal Exercise evaluation will be informed by:
• outputs from the Exercise planning process and planning meetings
• observations from Exercise staff
• outputs from the Exercise debriefs
• observations and reports from the Exercise evaluator(s).
Reviewing this data and evaluating your Exercise enable critical information to be collated and lessons learned to be documented so others can learn from them in the future.
Managing Exercises Handbook
This handbook has been developed by the Tasmanian Government to assist government agencies to run Exercises and includes:
• Providing a simple overview of the Exercise Management process
• Providing a step-by-step guide through the phases of Exercise management
• Using a single-agency, multi-agency or whole-of-government Exercises
• Supports small Exercises, while also providing comprehensive information for larger or more complex Exercises
• Includes useful templates and resources.
Managing Exercises Handbook Front Cover
That brings us to the completion of this module:
The Tasmanian Emergency Management Sector supports a culture of continuous improvement by:
- Encouraging lessons to be shared, including both positive actions to sustain areas requiring improvement
- Encouraging learning from both assurance activities and contemporary good practice
- Focusing on systems of work, rather than the performance of individuals
- Recognising that identifying and implementing sustainable solutions takes time, resources and opportunity.
It is acknowledged that some of these documents were used as resources and some direct quotes were embedded into the module:
Most documents are available on the SES webpage-supporting documents and resources: publicly as SES- Tasmania Emergency Management Arrangement
The majority of these documents can be accessed WebEOC. Watch the following video to gain an overview of this platform WebEOC File Library . Other links below:
- State Special Emergency Management Plans and Associate Plans-WebEOC-Municipal Councils website
- New South Wales Government EM-Lessons Management Framework
- Emergency Management Victoria- EM-Learn Lessons Management Framework
- Australian Institute of Disaster Resilience Lessons Management Handbook
- Tasmanian Disaster Resilience Strategy 2020-2025
- SEMC Strategic Directions Framework 2020-2025
- Tasmanian Emergency Evacuation Framework
- Managing Exercises: A handbook for Tasmanian Government Agencies
- People at Risk in an Emergency
- Municipal Emergency Management Guidelines
- Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience (AIDR) Knowledge Hub
- Australasian Fire and Emergency services Authority
- Australian Maritime Safety Authority Lessons Management Framework document-author Mark Cuthbert