Emergency Management Solutions Newsletter


Helping Managers Lead Better in Crisis

October 2011

In This Issue
Emergency Exercises
Video: GGRC Preparedness Series
Professional Development
Life Balance
From the Bookshelf
Speaking Engagements

Emergency Exercises


The Neglected Tabletop

One of the basic tenets of emergency planning is that a plan that has not been tested is not real. Unfortunately, while the best way to test plans is an operational exercise, the resource demands of functional and full scale exercises mean that we cannot hold them as frequently as we would like.


Because of this, we fall back on discussion-based exercises, principally the table-top exercise. However, my experience has been that even people who have been planning exercises for years frequently fail to grasp just how powerful a tool the tabletop exercise can be. It may well be the most cost-effective method we have for improving our plans and training personnel.




Disaster Preparedness Series 


GGRC - Public Health Emergencies
GGRC - Public Health Emergencies

This is the fifth video in the Golden Gate Regional Center Disaster Preparedness video series for the developmentally disabled. This video talks about public health emergencies.

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Welcome to the October issue of Emergency Management Solutions. This month's issue is devoted to the subject of exercises. I offer some advice on getting started, discuss the use of tabletop exercises, and review a great new book by my friend and colleague, Regina Phelps. Hope you enjoy this edition!


Next month is the annual conference for the International Association of Emergency Managers. If you can make it, it's a great opportunity to learn more about our profession, network with colleagues, and recharge your batteries. If you can't make it in person, consider using the webcast option - you'll get access to both live and on-deman sessions and earn CEM credit. I'm told you'll even be able to get my session on-demand. Find out more about the conference on the IAEM website.


A monthly newsletter is a great way to keep in touch but are you also signed up for my blog? If not, this month you missed a couple of articles on the L'Aquila trial in Italy, some thoughts on the Oakland Hills Fire, and a great new social media preparedness tool. I usually try to blog twice a week, so don't miss out! You can sign up on my blog site Canton on Emergency Management.


Visit my blog 


If you are having trouble viewing my featured article, try clicking on the link at the top of the page. Alternatively, you can always find my white paper on my blog site, Canton on Emergency Management.

Lucien Canton

Professional Development 


 Most of us would agree that testing plans and procedures through exercises is an essential part of what we do. However, I've seen a lot of emergency managers and continuity planners who really don't know how to put together a good exercise. Most of the time, this is not a question of ability but just a lack of good training. So let's look at some of the ways you can improve your exercise skills.


Let' start with the theoretical foundation first. The FEMA Independent Study Program offers three courses on exercise design and assessment that do a pretty good job of orienting you to the exercise design process. The Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program manuals also offer a solid theoretical basis, although HSEEP may be a bit of overkill for the private sector. If you're using HSEEP, the site also offers a number of tools that can useful in designing your exercise.


So much for theory. The best way to get good at exercises is to do them. There is a relatively easy way to gain experience: volunteer to help out your colleagues. Exercises can be labor-intensive and there is always a need for controllers and evaluators. You'll get to see how others do it and pick up a lot of good ideas or note things to avoid. 

Life Balance 

I once assigned one of my staff in San Francisco as the exercise director for one of our semi-annual functional exercises. This was the first time this person had ever been asked to do this and she was understandably concerned. Since she worked primarily with the community, she was worried that she didn't have the operational knowledge she would need.
This staff person had already proved herself an able coordinator and administrator in the course of her normal duties. Once I pointed out that she would be using these skills and could rely on her exercise team for the operational details, she agreed to take on the assignment. As expected, she did well.
What we can accomplish is not always dictated by whether we have done something before. Instead it's about recognizing the skills we have developed over our lives and applying them in new ways. After all, flexibility is one of the Principles of Emergency Management.
From the Bookshelf 


Wish you could hire a consultant to help with your exercises? Would settle for just sitting down and picking the brains of one of the best in the business? Emergency Management Exercises: From Response to Recovery: Everything you need to know to design a great exercise by Regina Phelps gives you the opportunity to do just that. Over the course of her career as a consultant, Regina has designed well over a thousand exercises. This book distills her wisdom into a practical how-to guide that covers every aspect of exercise design, from documentation to after-action reports. Although the book does not address HSEEP requirements, it offers valuable insights applicable to both the public and private sectors. It's a bit pricey at $79.95 for the paperback but it is one of those books that should be on every emergency manager's book shelf.
Speaking Engagements 

November 15: A Tale of Three Fires: Do We Really Learn from Disasters? International Association of Emergency Managers Conference, Las Vegas NV

Looking for a Speaker?


Need a speaker for your next conference? I offer keynotes, seminars and workshops. You can find more details on my website  or on my SpeakerMixpage. 


Lucien Canton Seminar Excerpts
Lucien Canton Seminar Excerpts
If you've heard me speak...

...I'd greatly appreciate it if you would take a minute to give me feedback on SpeakerMix. Just go to the site and click on the "Write A Review" button. 


Many thanks!

ŠLucien G. Canton  March 2011