We have been helping districts with tabletop exercises for years. Currently, schools are returning to in-person teaching and learning. The stress and concern related to the pandemic continues to affect students, staff, and their families. The education community is very aware of the potential mental health issues that accompany this ongoing stress and concern. Fortunately, the community is taking steps to improve early recognition and intervention for those needing special care. As we return to the classroom, it is important for us to recognize that school safety risks are also impacted by this concern. Preparedness is more important than ever. Where do we start? It begins with training of the school safety team and other staff regarding their roles and responsibilities during an emergency at school.
What are tabletop exercises?
Tabletop exercises allow a school safety team to put their safety training to a test in a safe and relatively stress-free setting. Tabletop exercises (TTX) are discussion-based exercises regarding a hypothetical, simulated emergency scenario. The TTX is intended to improve general awareness and validate plans and procedures to enhance conceptual understanding of roles and responsibilities, identify potential tactics and responses, uncover gaps and areas for improvement, and achieve changes in perceptions.
So how do you start?
The following steps can supercharge a tabletop exercise assumes that two-way radios are a part of a school’s emergency communication plan.
- Choose a school-based emergency incident and write a 2 to 3 sentence description
- Gather the participants (with their radios) and explain the exercise process
- Send the person who will be in charge of the incident (the Incident Commander) out of the room with their radio
- Display the scenario on a screen to the participants in the room
- Ask one person to summarize the scenario and use the radio to report it to the Incident Commander (IC)
- The IC will use that information to size up the situation, form a response plan, and begin assigning response tasks to the participants by using the radio to communicate. Example: direct a specific person to call 911. Continue this for 60-90 seconds or until the IC runs out of task assignments
- Bring the IC back into the room and conduct a “hotwash” to discuss how effective the radio communications were: what went well with the task assignments and the order of the assignments, and what could be improved.
Finally, during the hotwash, discussions of who should do what and when are valuable to help people understand and apply their training regarding their roles and responsibilities during a particular emergency event. Using the radio to “work” the scenario brings a level of realism to the tabletop discussions that helps to supercharge the learning.
Want to discuss further? Contact us!