It’s imperative that you test your crisis response plan before you need to use it. Experts say you should start with simple exercises and work your way up to a full-scale test over time.

Here’s a typical sequence of exercises recommended by officials from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency:

  1. Orientation: An informal briefing to help officials from participating agencies become familiar with their roles and functions during a crisis.
  2. Drills: Typically conducted as limited, single-agency exercises to test a specific function, such as the evacuation of students from a school facility.
  3. Tabletop exercise: Always use this type of exercise before moving on to a full-scale exercise. It’s a low-cost, low-stress group exercise that simulates a crisis through discussion. Representatives from each agency that would respond to a major crisis should participate.
  4. Functional exercise: Though similar to a tabletop exercise, a functional exercise is conducted in a highly stressful manner using real-time messaging slips requiring immediate action.
  5. Full-scale exercise: The closest simulation to a real crisis, this type of exercise involves the actual deployment of people and equipment. A properly designed, full-scale exercise normally requires six to 12 months of preparation.

Source: Campus Safety Journal, June 2001