How to set up a simple local Simulated Emergency Test or SET for yourself, your family, neighborhood, CERT or church group or combination of any of the above.
In an SET you want to answer some basic questions. As you build on your SET experiences, you will have sub-questions but for now, I think these are the basic questions:
1. What if this were to happen here
2. Who would be affected
3. How will I, or my group, respond
4. Am I prepared to handle this event
These questions form the basic premise of your SET and can also serve as the questions of your ‘hot wash’ or after action report.
As said earlier, you can make these questions as easy or as difficult as needed—the later can be layered with as many details as you need (depending on your preparedness level). The difficulty of the questions also depends on the players:
A. How many people are you involving in your SET
B. What is your objective and what are the objectives/focus of the groups involved under your main goals.
C. How long do you want your SET to go also effects how layered/deep you can push it.
There are two types of basic SETs you can run:
- The Tabletop Scenario
- The Active Exercise
I believe you can run a successful SET in either mode. The SET goal should be to practice what your skills are, improve them with problem solving scenarios; cause inquiry into creating new skill sets, and be ready to use these for real world events with confidence.
How to set up your SET
1. Make your event believable. What types of events have been in the news? Keep a notebook on events you read about. Think ‘what if this happen here’. Several small cascading events might be more interesting than one big one.
2. Who is participating in your SET? If you are using your neighborhood CERT group and your local ERC group make sure you have scenarios they need to address within their skillsets. Make sure there’s interaction between the groups (you or your group will have to interact with other people in a real event)
3. What time of the day is your SET occurring? If you want it to be realistic don’t always set in on a sunny summer Sunday afternoon. What happen’s when it’s at rush hour, during a winter blizzard, or your Church leaders are at Girl’s Camp? Turn the lights off to simulate ‘no power’ and see what happens.
4. Give yourself a time limit for the SET and plenty of time for the hot wash/after discussion. Your hot wash will be the most important part of your local SET. Make sure you keep it positive, moderate the discussion—stay focused on the basic SET questions and how people problem-solved the situations they were in. Take notes and get feedback on paper, or email, from everyone there.
5. Have a script with events that occur every 3, 5 or 10 minutes that build on the last problem. Envelopes with scripts work, or have the groups play off each other by giving each other the next script to solve.
6. Make your SET fun. Not everything in your scenario has to be dramatic and difficult. If you have a person in your group that knows all the answers, put them in time-out for two rounds so it gives others an opportunity to get involved. Make them pull out the phone book and find obscure city locations, Work on mathematical story problems, draw maps with several ways to get out of your city, or county if I-15 is off limits.
7. Put people with different skillsets together in a group. This allows for an exchange of ideas from different angles. In the hotwash—mention all the unique ways people viewed the situation. The only ‘bad idea’ is the one where there is no idea on how to solve a problem.
8. Talk about ideas for future SET’s with your people during the hot wash. Get the energy that comes from the SET working towards your next event. Make assignments for the next one, set up a meeting or email list and keep the SET on their minds. Set goals for what you want your next SET to accomplish or how you can recruit more people to attend and see how fun/educational an SET is.
If you had an active scenario, have some time for ‘show & tell’ on gear people have acquired for their jumpkits. Everyone likes to see what others are collecting. Don’t forget refreshments if you can budget them in!
How can UCARES help you plan your next local SET? We are set up to provide and practice our communications skills in non-emergency situations. The events we participate in teach us how to effectively communicate in a low-stress environment (compared to a disaster environment). Practice in the events that UCARES provides. Get involved. You will see the need for effective communication skills, regardless of what SET you decide to run and what groups you invite to participate.
If you have some great ideas to make a local SET a success, I’d love to hear them. Please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org