Exercise, exercise, exercise. Those familiar words echoing over the Giant Voice (mass notification system) always bring back memories of long days and sleepless nights in the military.
They meant that somewhere on the installation, an emergency was happening and that as an emergency responder, I had to put on my game face and prepare to respond to and mitigate some type of disaster.
Along with those words also came a calm and an inner assurance. I knew that this was not a real emergency, even though, I was going to have to approach the scene as though there was one.
My actions could someday determine life or death.
I also remember being asked by my junior enlisted folks, “Why do we have to exercise disasters?”
To which I would reply, “The more we practice, the better we get. Just like we don’t want to be the first patient our surgeon has ever operated on, the installation populace expects us to be proficient at what we do.”
Conducting exercises helps us answer important questions that planning can sometimes miss:
• Are the emergency and standard operating plans and procedures that we have in place effective and executable?
• Does every agency know their specific role and where to obtain additional resources?
• Is there something that we missed or could do better?
The answer to the last question is almost always a “yes.” The true test is when the Giant Voice announces an actual emergency and first responders have to go out to the scene and save lives and mitigate damage. Only then will we know our capabilities and reap the benefits of a robust exercise program.