Regardless of the client – a major alcohol distributor, a drilling giant or even a high-net-worth family – we always recommend that an effective emergency management plan be written and maintained over time. But this plan, no matter how well-designed or thorough it may be, will be worthless during an emergency unless key stakeholders understand the plan and are prepared to take the appropriate actions. This can be ensured through emergency management training.

Once your emergency management plan is written, it needs to come to life through a robust emergency management training program. Because emergency management plans identify threats and hazards that can negatively impact people’s lives, business operations and critical assets, an organization’s executives’ and emergency response leadership team members must invest time and energy into a formal training program.

1. Emergency Management Training Is a Year-Round Exercise

A critical first step is grabbing a calendar and setting emergency management training dates for the entire organization from top executives to frontline employees. Unlike a birthday, training needs to occur more than once per year. Ideally, security and emergency response training sessions should happen before every major event and, at a minimum, on a quarterly basis. Annual and refresher training sessions held throughout the year should culminate in a formal exercise.

2. Training Is like a Performance – and All the World’s a Stage

Emergency management plans require a robust training program because the plans identify a host of events that most people have never experienced: active shooter attacks, workplace violence incidents, tornadoes, floods and power failures.

A training program helps internal emergency response team members and other employees gain exposure to an event that has never happened. Just like a dress rehearsal before a school play, employees need to learn their roles before an incident occurs. This practice enhances knowledge, builds confidence, diminishes surprises and ultimately clarifies expectations during an emergency.

This process can also help emergency response team leaders to identify other employees with the desire and savvy to join the team.

3. ‘The Enemy Gets a Vote’ and Encouraging Flexibility

Another critical reason to have a dynamic and recurring emergency management training program is that emergency plans are not supposed to be rigid scripts followed blindly without exception. The emergency plan is an outline of what could occur not what will occur.

Public and private organizations need to adopt a planning and training philosophy of the U. S. Army: constantly train and exercise plans because “the enemy gets a vote.” The “enemy” could be a disgruntled worker, an internet-inspired “lone wolf” individual seeking to launch an active shooter attack at a soft target, an organized terrorist group deciding to attack a stadium and so on. In short, training is essential because the opposing force is using its own resources to develop an attack, and that attack can never be perfectly predicted.

The best emergency preparedness training programs can teach individuals how to adapt to these different scenarios. A training program will allow employees to cast their own “votes” in favor of safety and preparedness.