Exercises are a key element in the production of a contingency plan. A plan cannot be deemed complete unless it has been tested to make sure it works as intended to.
Often in response to an incident there are many agencies responding that each has their own plan, so it is essential to ensure that each plan works individually and dovetails together with the other plans.
The plans can be tested through a number of different exercise types. These are:
- Control Post
Whatever the type of plan - if designed well - it should not test the individuals using the plan, but the plan itself.
These are discussion based exercises that inform those taking part of the role, responsibilities, policies and procedures of each agency in response to the incident.
These exercises are designed to find any problems within the plans and look for solutions to solve them. This also has the added benefit found with all exercises of getting to know each others opposite numbers in other agencies which makes for smoother running and better inter-agency co-operation should a real life incident occur.
This exercise as the name implies is carried out around the table. As with the seminar it is a forum for all the agencies to get together. Where this exercise differs is that a scenario is introduced and the relevant agencies talk through their response in the order in which they would occur. This is of benefit to all those ‘around the table' as a through understanding of what each agency would do is achieved. This type of exercise is often used to test a plan when completed in draft to iron out any problems, and ensure that the plans from the various agencies all dovetail together.
In these exercises members of participation are based in their control or communication room, and the communications aspect of an incident is tested. This covers the practical aspects of communication room layout and staffing, and also tests that a reliable flow of information between agencies can be achieved. This is useful if remote communications are to be used such as the force Mobile Police Station or the force Mobile Communications Vehicle.
Live exercises can test an element of a plan such as evacuation or can be used for a full scale test of the whole organisations response. These can be made realistic using ‘casualties' that are essentially actors with stage make up so that look realistic. This is the closest to a real incident an exercise can be, but is very expensive and labour intensive.
Each year a number of live exercises take place that involve agencies from the LRF. Exercises although invaluable are a drain on resources, so for this reason it is beneficial to co-ordinate the exercising with all the agencies on the LRF. This also gives the opportunity to invite other agencies to participate where there is some learning benefit.
This co-ordination is achieved through the training sub-group of the LRF.
In addition to the exercises that take place to test the plans a number of presentations are given to various organisations that explain the rational and process behind both the planning for and command of an incident from the Police perspective.
Internal presentations are given to all new recruits as they receive their probationer training explaining components of the major incident schematic so that they have some idea of what to expect should they attend an incident of that scale and have to work with the various agencies involved. Other officers who may be involved in a Major Incident are given training dependent on their role. For example officers on a POLSA (Police search advisor) course receive input.
External presentations are given to a number of agencies such as the Fire Service training college at Moreton-in-Marsh; Academic lectures are given on post graduate courses at Shrivenham and many LRF presentations are given with input from all agencies including the Police.