As important as setting clear goals and objectives are to an exercise plan, an independent evaluation should be the legacy of your efforts. The evaluation should identify areas of improvement for resources, training, policy, procedure and culture.
I recently directed an exercise in which there was an active shooter in a school. Multiple Police Tactical teams responded and important areas for improvement were identified in the post exercise evaluation or After Action Report (AAR).
The exercise challenged responders to deal with armed barricaded subjects on a school campus. For this scenario, Police were faced with a confirmed shooting but not “active” shooting when they arrived.
The After Action Report for the exercise identified “the need” for a vehicle that could provide cover for responders as they approached the building to retrieve injured persons.
Given this identified and now “validated” need, the next task, post exercise, was to take corrective action. The corrective action was to secure a SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) vehicle and to identify grant funding to support the request.
Finding and securing grant funding can often be as difficult as planning and managing an exercise, but fortunately our exercise was designed using Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Planning (HSEEP) guidelines. These guidelines are a great resource for conducting a safe and productive exercise. They also provide the framework for independently and critically evaluating your exercise.
Whether you work in the public or private sector, competing-negotiating-begging-securing funding is a challenge. Having a well-documented, independent and verified need for your request can definitely make it easier. SWAT ONE was born from the school active shooter exercise evaluation and our team successfully secured the funding for this Homeland Security asset based on this documentation.
Many exercises I work on have observable outcomes and this is very rewarding. SWAT ONE is definitely one of the exercise outcomes that I will always remember and my hope is that if and when it goes into harm’s way, those aboard will be safe.