7 Steps to a Successful Emergency Management Test

UPDATE:  The State Superintendent of Public Instruction has used his authority provided by HB 197 to approve an extended deadline for the 2020 Emergency Management Test in the wake of coronavirus-related ordered school building closure. The new deadline for the 2020 test is December 31, 2021. Please contact the Ohio School Safety Center with any questions related to this extension..
Exercise Types 7 Steps to a Successful Emergency Management Test
How to Complete an EMT After-Action Report Scenarios & Other Resources

7 Steps to a Successful Emergency Management Test

  1. Develop an annual (or multi-year) master exercise schedule. Make sure that it includes:

    • Emergency Management Test(s);
    • State Fire Marshal drills (Example: The Ohio State Fire Marshall requires firelockdown, tornado and rapid dismissal drills, which are considered functional exercises. You may be able to the use the drill to also count for your functional Emergency Management Test); and
    • Other emergency preparedness trainings or drills that the school administrator deems necessary.

Creating and maintaining this schedule will help your district or school make sure that drills and tests:

  • Are within the required timelines of state law;
  • Limit classroom interruption; and
  • Include the appropriate responders and community organizations, such as local police and fire, the county emergency management agency, or a mental health group.
  1. Select an exercise type to use – tabletop, functional or full-scale.

  2. Decide which situation (or hazard) and corresponding protective measures of your school plan you will practice.

    • Choose a hazard.

    • Once you select the hazard, there are typically several protective measures that could be used in response to a hazard.

  1. Decide on key test aspects, such as:

    • Date (if not established in your annual plan);

    • Length of time;

    • Participants - If students are participating, you should notify them and their parents ahead of the test and provide age-appropriate material to prevent emotional trauma; and

    • Location (is a specific room/venue needed?).

  1. Identify, revise and draft a situation that will help you identify strengths and weakness of your plan.   

    This is a theoretical series of events that you are trying to simulate in the test. It can be in the form of a narrative or a timeline. Typically, situations will have three sections (initial response [0-1 hour], intermediate response [1-24 hours], and recovery [24 hours and beyond].

    You may choose to hire an exercise consultant to develop your scenario.

  2. Capture strengths and improvement areas of the test. Allow for written feedback to ensure you capture information from participants.

    Strengths and improvement areas focus on training, the plan and procedures, not the performance of individuals. Strengths are areas where the plan, training or other aspects functioned correctly or where a previously unidentified benefit was recognized. Improvement areas are where the plan or training was insufficient, or where following the plan or training did not produce the expected outcome or an outcome that produced negative results.

    A review of how you have resolved these improvement areas will occur during your next formal evaluation to verify inclusion in your updated plan as required in the law.

    Identifying Strengths and Improvement Areas

Understand that there may be questions and some confusion the first several times you conduct an EMT. This is entirely normal and expected. Use the confusion and questions as a learning exercise. Remember this process is new to everyone in the building. Set expectations around the types of questions and be open to the feedback. The process of answering the questions from staff, students and parents help to refine your plan so that your next EMT will go smoother. Other perspectives are likely to improve the overall plan and the level of preparedness within the school. 

Strengths and improvement areas are the cornerstones of exercising emergency plans.  Strengths show you what is working well in your plan, while improvement areas show the parts of the plan that you need to change. Improvement areas are not based on how poorly individuals did during the exercise, but rather about needed adjustments in the plan. Participants should identify procedures to add or remove so that plan-based responses result in desired outcomes.

The safety committee should analyze improvement areas and identify options to improve response procedures. An identified solution should be noted, implemented and documented in the plan. 

  1. Within 30 days of the date you conducted your Emergency Management Test, you must enter it into SAFE.