With Operation Hide and Seek, some times I felt like knocking on wood, a lot, and started to find myself answering “who’s there?”
This was the first time that O.M.E.G.A. tried to conduct an exercise simultaneously at two distinct geographic locations — 480 Marion Street in Denver and 1695 Orchard Road in Greenwood Village. This meant that we had two operation chiefs, two moulage teams, but thankfully only one planning chief, logistic chief and one exercise director (aka incident commander for the exercise).
Our intent and purpose was to help leaders within the Community Emergency Response Team organization learn how to initiate and follow through on the search and triage component of the CERT training. Based on prior exercises we wanted to break the anatomy of a response into more manageable pieces and have the responders tackle problems with one focus at a time. At first we were considering a different table top, but as the team brainstormed the goals of Operation Hide and Seek, the concept evolved into a full exercise with a narrow focus where special attention was given to setting up incident command and managing the search operation.
Hosting Hide and Seek in two locations allowed us to double the number of participants without overloading either facility. It also allowed for a more focused scope and smaller response teams where students had the opportunity to get more hands on experience across multiple areas and better absorb the concepts of a successful search.
At first the CERT participants seemed a little weary and cautious. These were veterans of previous exercises and they expected that the world would unravel around them very quickly, but the purpose of this exercise was to break the response into manageable chunks and walk through the critical steps.
The responders identified their own incident commander, administration officer (scribe), operations chief, logistics chief, etc. They cautiously, like rookies, started to search the facilities for survivors. After about an hour, they found everyone.
Then it appeared the light came on. This was not rocket science.
We asked if they wanted to “play” again. And they jumped at the chance. The second go around; the teams had a greater sense of confidence.
Practice is the best prescription for “CERT amnesia” (if we don’t use it, we loose it). We need to practice what we have learned. We need to explore means to do what we do in CERT better. That way, when “we knock on wood”, we all can answer “Here we are!” And we all know “who is there.”
See you at the next exercise.