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Monday, October 31, 2016

The Power of Exercise

Today’s blog comes to us from Rod Parish. Rod is the Exercise Branch Manager for the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, Division of Emergency Management.  Rod retired as a captain after 32 years in Arizona law enforcement.  His background includes experience in commercial vehicle enforcement, hazardous materials, training, and intelligence. 

DEMA Recovery Tabletop Exercise
June 2016
When people ask me what I do for a living, I reply, “I’m the Exercise Manager for the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs.”  The next question is usually, “Wow, so you do physical fitness stuff?”  My wife laughs at this, a lot.  Exercises are simply a way for the whole community to validate and test their plans and capabilities. The principles apply to families just as much as government agencies. 

There are two major categories of exercises; discussion-based and operations-based. Discussion-based exercises consist of seminars (used to educate participants), workshops (to develop a product, such as an emergency communications plan), tabletop exercises (to discuss and work through problems) and games (a competition between two or more groups to test a plan). 

Do you have an emergency plan for your family? A tabletop exercise for you may consist of family members sitting around the kitchen table, reviewing the plan and talking about “what if” problems. For example, “What if there was a fire in the kitchen during the night, how would we get out of the house?” This discussion may identify weaknesses in the family emergency plan that need to be addressed.

Operations-based exercises consist of drills, functional exercises, and full scale exercises. These types of exercises involve action; someone is actually out doing something. Drills are conducted to test a particular function. We are all familiar with fire drills, used to practice the orderly evacuation of a building. Functional exercises evaluate multiple functions. This may, for example, consist of a city emergency operations center testing their operations. A full scale exercise is the most complex, involving multiple jurisdictions and many players. 
DEMA Functional Exercise
November 2015

Operations-based exercises are important for families, too. Once you have revised your family emergency plan after discussing it around the kitchen table, you will want to see how it works when your family has to use it. To do this, you might conduct a drill to test your family’s ability to exit the house during a simulated emergency. Are family members able to hear smoke detectors in all areas of the home? Are problems encountered when exiting the home? Do your children know where they are supposed to gather outside the home? It’s a good idea to practice emergency plans in a controlled setting. You definitely want to know your plan works, before an emergency happens. 

Exercises are a powerful tool to make the whole community better prepared for emergencies. If you don’t have a family emergency plan, please develop one.  Information on family emergency plans can be found at Once you have a plan, exercise it! You will be better prepared in the event an emergency happens.


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