Tips To Create Engaging Emergency Preparedness Training

Glenn Jones, an experienced emergency preparedness professional, and Danielle Ricci, Marketing Team Leader for AlertFind, recently discussed how emergency preparedness managers can overcome one of their biggest challenges - creating training programs that actually get employees engaged with emergency preparedness programs.

Glenn, who spent years creating emergency preparedness plans for a global electronics manufacturer, will help organizations use their risk assessments to help create dynamic live and online training exercises so employees understand how to respond during a typhoon, fire, active shooter or other emergency.

Join Glenn Jones and Danielle Ricci as they continue this conversation and answer your questions live on February 22nd.

Danielle Ricci: What’s the best way for organizations to start identifying risks? How does having different locations in multiple states or countries affect that risk assessment?

Glenn Jones: We had multiple locations around the world so we built those risk assessments at the plant level. I looked at each individual location, not just the physical location but at all of the contributing factors, whether it be government, environmental, technology, the maturity of the area’s infrastructure, etc.

For some of the developing areas, like India or Africa, I looked at how they’re doing things from an infrastructure perspective and if there were any risks there. From a technology standpoint, do they have the infrastructure needed to sustain a facility as it grows? So those are things that you have to look at.

Once we identified the risks, we created an Excel sheet. We wanted it to be easy to use and consistent. Basically, you want to be evaluating the same set of risks for each facility and then correlating the data by the type of risk at each facility.

Danielle Ricci: Who do you bring into the risk assessment process?

Glenn Jones: For every risk assessment, we assemble lead teams. We identify the critical business operators that are function leaders within the facility and bring them together to create the lead team.

Then I look for someone in the facility who really understands risk to help facilitate the discussions. They lead the discussions based on each of the risks that you've outlined, just to make sure that you are capturing the right information.

Then we put together a risk probability score using subjective weights based on a number of factors, like the country where the plant is located, any environmental factors, etc.

I do this with the lead team so that you have different perspectives within the room and you're not just having a single focus or perspective. You basically want to pull from all the people that are in your lead group.

Danielle Ricci: Can you tell me more about the scoring system you use? Could you give me an example of an item and its score, versus something that was rated higher or lower?

Glenn Jones: One of the areas we're going to look at will be a competitive threat. Are there other industries that could adversely impact our growth? That may be a one on the scale.

But you should also look at things like terrorist activities, political crises, corruption, economic instability, heightened unrest and increase of security risks that all result in safety issues. Those are all a 3 on the scale.

When you start looking at the risk and you look at the development of your business continuity plan, it's really about your company's reputation.

And if you're in a situation where you have terrorist activity, you've got to start looking at things a little bit more strategically when it comes to that particular facility.

In terms of economic instability, what if that’s a critical location for your business? That's why it's so high, because if it's something that will definitely hinder your ability to deliver a product or service, you have to start looking at alternative locations.

The way we break down our risk is by looking at several categories. One just being business continuity, competitive threats based on that first question. The cost of operations, current fluctuations adversely impacting profitability. That was a weighted one.

For manufacturing, we’d look at the cost of commodities. That was a two. It comes down to procurement discretion - do you buy more when costs are less or do you maintain safety stock and inventory? You start looking at what some of your mitigation plans are.

Danielle Ricci: Your scale goes from zero to three. One is a minor risk, three is a major risk?

Glenn Jones: In our report, we use a scale of not applicable, low, medium or high for a point value of zero, one, two or three.

Danielle Ricci: What’s a key risk that you see companies overlook?

Glenn Jones: Talent and labor is something most people don't pay attention to. I always tell the organization, people are part of your plan. When we create our RTOs, our Recovery Time Objectives, we also take into consideration the labor because what if you’re hit with a pandemic? And it's something that's actually impacted the company over the past few years. Right now, we've got flu season. Schools are being closed.

In that situation, you have to actually take into consideration your people. And one of the risks we looked at was the failure to recruit and retain people with the right skill sets in the talent pipeline. And in the case of a manufacturing company, that's engineers, toolmakers, etc. Think about why companies go global. It comes down to skill sets more than the cost of labor.

Danielle Ricci: Let’s focus on the training now. This is really where people struggle. How do you translate your risk assessment into a dynamic training plan?

Glenn Jones: When I put together training, I start by looking at the most common risk. So for a location in Taiwan, they get at least two or three typhoons a year, or flooding. You can tap into what they're dealing with regularly.

For each location, I look at how much the staff knows of the business continuity plan that they put in place. And then the other piece is when you look at your lead team within the facilities. How comfortable are they with making the decisions in order to mitigate or reduce the potential impact of the disaster?

When we did the emergency simulations, our key was to make sure that we were agile enough that we can change if we saw a better training scenario.

To help me create the scenario, I would always do a tour of the facility, even if I knew it or had been there before, I would go through it again because there's different things that I'll see while I'm going through the tour.

In one location, the parking garage is right next to their most critical business operation area, which included a very expensive piece of machinery.

So for our training exercise, I created a scenario where an employee carpools in during a huge storm. The car overheats and catches fire. Now, what do you do?

And it was a great scenario because everyone was focused on trying to make sure they covered everything from rain and flooding and no one thought about the other risks. No one paid attention to the fact that their building's on fire and they had to evacuate it.

So you really have to be flexible when you’re creating these scenarios. You have to have a couple of surprises in there.

This also applies to tabletop exercises. I've had times when I’ve had a dominant person in the room. Part of that exercise is to see what would happen if you took them out of the operation. Tell them in this scenario they’ve gotten sick or injured and can’t work. Now what will the other members do?

The facilitator has to make a determination during the exercise, “Do I have the right people in the room? Is everyone speaking and clear on what it is we are trying to accomplish?” You have to kind of get a feel for what you're working on.

Danielle Ricci: Being creative and being agile - that's really key, isn’t it? I think that allows you to create better scenarios and to really test each location’s readiness.

Glenn Jones: We even used a training scenario where, because it was a shared facility, we featured a disgruntled worker in another company that brought a bomb to the building. While it didn't impact our company directly, we were still affected by the evacuation and risk of the bomb exploding.

Danielle Ricci: How do you structure the training at each location?

Glenn Jones: For the annual reviews, we’d do a two-day training session. We used a program approach, specific to each location. It needs to start with the foundational pieces. It should be based on their knowledge of the operation, products, services, suppliers and everything else.

How do we apply it, how do we use it, what's our methodology for creating or identifying what a critical business operation there is. Are they able to even articulate what these acronyms mean? You need to cover all of that. Then we’d do the simulations.

Danielle Ricci: How do you recommend that companies really use their training programs to get the most out of it?

Glenn Jones: We structured our training policy so that it is annual, but there's always a caveat depending on changes within the organization. I always tell people it's easier to look at it quarterly and make adjustments because your people change.

What if one season you have a bunch of contract workers in a facility because it's feeding high demand and a quarter later they're all gone?

At that point, all the training you did in quarter one, it's no longer valid. It’s easier to review your training more frequently, in shorter increments, than to do it over two days once a year.

By looking at it more frequently, you're eliminating the thought process that this is a formality. Because as corporate leaders, one of the challenges we'll always have is that pushback of, "Oh great, corporate's coming down with another mandate that we have to follow."

So by showing them the principle, showing them the fundamentals of emergency management, making them own the elements of the plan itself, and showing them why it's really important, you can get them to really engage with emergency preparedness.

Danielle Ricci: Any other tips for creating successful training sessions?

Glenn Jones: There's a certain level of enthusiasm I bring to the training because I see the value in it. You have to actually come to these people the same way. Your energy level, it basically dictates how successful those sessions are.

If you've had a bad or very boring professor at any point in your college career, you understand what it's like to mentally check out of a session or a class.

Danielle Ricci: Emergency preparedness managers also struggle to get the attention of the executive team and to get budget for their projects. How do you get the C-suite to see the importance of it? How do you get them to give you budget?

Glenn Jones: That happens to be the hardest part. For me, I tie it directly into how we make money. You have to monetize it somehow, and show that what you are building is something that's going to retain revenue.

Think about how you make money as a business. When you start looking at the financial sector and other industries, a data breach could really destroy a company because if you start having issues where data's compromised or people don't have access to their funds, you're directly impacting your revenue and maybe even causing your business to fail.

Danielle Ricci: After doing 34 on-site training programs last year, what's the best advice you'd offer to other emergency preparedness managers who are working on their training plans?

Glenn Jones: It was a project management lesson - it's truly understanding who your stakeholders are.

Once you understand who your stakeholders are, you can develop the right communications and if you develop the right communication, you can sell your program and get the support you need faster.

It comes down to knowing who your stakeholders are and understanding your business. The more you can understand the business and you can tie the benefits of what you're doing to sustaining business results, you actually create the best justification to develop the training that you need.

Want to learn more about how to create dynamic emergency preparedness training for your organization?

Register for AlertFind’s webinar, “Emergency Preparedness Training: Creating Customized Scenarios For Your Organization,” featuring emergency preparedness expert Glenn Jones and AlertFind’s Marketing Team Leader Danielle Ricci at 2 p.m. EDT on Thursday, Feb. 22.

You are well on your way toward protecting your staff and organization.

Take the next step toward protecting your organization by learning more about emergency notification systems and the vital role they play in your emergency preparedness plan.