High Alert Institute



Practicing the Way You Play – Completing the Planning Cycle

by | Sep 1, 2022

In prior articles in this series, we explored the first three steps of the High Alert Institute’s four-step approach to disaster/business continuity risk assessment, planning, mitigation, training, and evaluation:

Step 1: Collate an All-Hazards list of planning scenarios   

Step 2: Use free government software to help you identify risks, mitigations, and write your plan 

Step 3: Set up mutual aid relationships with your staff and vendors


This final article in the series explores Step 4: Conduct disaster exercises and after-action reviews.

The most accurate test of operational business resilience, and that of greatest risk, is through the experience of an actual disaster. Well-planned, well-executed, and well-reviewed disaster exercises, however, can provide most if not all of the same lessons. As a result, simulated disaster responses can lead to plan improvements without the inherent risks and business interruption of disaster events.

Training and exercises for your disaster/business continuity plan should be based on the outcomes of Step 2 – scenarios scored using the ASPR RISC Toolkit and the plan generated by the DHS BCP Suite. Critically important to this process is to have your organization’s disaster response mimic your regular business day. As Vince Lombardi said, “Practice the Way You Play.” And the self-directed exercise included in the DHS Suite allows you to test your newly implemented BCP and practice just how you will play.

The DHS BCP Suite testing module is a Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) compliant tabletop exercise, focused on business recovery efforts in the wake of a broad spectrum of threats. Examples of operational disruptions included are hurricanes, earthquakes, ice storms, and blackouts. The goal of the exercise is to improve overall recovery capabilities, actions, and collective decision-making process. Such an open, thought-provoking exchange of ideas is designed to develop and expand existing knowledge of policies and procedures within the framework of an organization’s BCP implementation.

Additional training for the design, execution, and review of disaster exercises is provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency Emergency Management Institute (FEMA EMI) and the FEMA HSEEP YouTube Channel. Used together, this FEMA training and the above DHS BCP testing module allow businesses and organizations to test their newly implemented business continuity and disaster recovery plans before challenging them with real-world events.  

The disaster/business continuity planning cycle is an annual event that should not take more than one day a week each September during National Disaster Preparedness month. Using resources and tools already paid for by your tax dollars, the process is inexpensive and can lead to improvements in operational efficiency and business alliances that actually save money.

After-Action Reviews (AARs) are documents that list the strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats, as well as the insights and short-sights (SWOT-IS analysis) of the BCP at the time of the exercise or disaster event. Distilling a list of Lessons Learned that can become Lessons Applied in the revised BCP is the main objective of the AAR. By applying the SWOT-IS version of a standard business SWOT analysis, businesses and organizations can evaluate and improve their BCP using the tools and resources discussed in this series of articles.

This concludes your disaster/continuity planning cycle for the year. Repeating this 4-step process each September will help you to evaluate, improve, and keep your plan current for true all-hazards deployment.

To recap the series,

Step 1: Collate an All-Hazards list of planning scenarios   

Step 2: Use free government software to help you identify risks, mitigations, and write your plan 

Step 3: Set up mutual aid relationships with your staff and vendors

Step 4: Conduct disaster exercises and after-action reviews

To access these resources, visit the Institute Training Library Contingency Planning Section.

For more information, visit the Institute Planning4Good Page.

We are ALWAYS stronger together! The most accurate test of operational business resilience, and that of greatest risk, is through the experience of an actual disaster. Well-planned, well-executed, and well-reviewed disaster exercises, however, can provide most if not all of the same lessons.

Griffin Works offers Pawsitive Interactions with Service Dogs During Response Operations©, an audience-customized training that breaks down barriers by offering hands-on handling training and demonstrations with working service dogs for fire departments, EMS agencies, and public safety organizations.

Part of the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium and home to the National Emergency Response and Recovery Training Center, TEEX has been leading homeland security training since 1998. The major TEEX programs include fire and rescue, infrastructure and safety, law enforcement, economic and workforce development, and homeland security. As a member of The Texas A&M University System, TEEX is unique in its ability to access a broad range of emerging research and technical expertise. Beginning with course design and development all the way through hands-on instruction and national certification testing, TEEX delivers comprehensive training through both classroom and hands-on instruction and as online courses.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) was created by Congress in 2000 as part of the Children’s Health Act to raise the standard of care and increase access to services for children and families who experience or witness traumatic events. This unique network of child-serving professionals, caregivers and young adults, researchers, and national partners is committed to changing the course of children’s lives by improving their care and moving scientific gains quickly into practice across the U.S. The NCTSN is administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and coordinated by the UCLA-Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress (NCCTS). 

The Emergency Management Institute (EMI) is part of the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The EMI provides national leadership in developing and delivering training to ensure that individuals and groups having key emergency management responsibilities possess the requisite skills to effectively perform their jobs.

The High Alert Institute maintains a list of reviewed courses provided by governments, universities and professional organizations. This list is geared towards the non-emergency management person who participates in disaster planning, preparedness, response, recovery or mitigation as part of their job responsibilities.

The High Alert Institute has partnered with Shutterstock to distribute stock images from the nature images donated by our supporters. For eligible stock images, Shutterstock will donate a portion of the royalty to the High Alert Institute. There is no cost to charitable organizations or to Shutterstock customers.

For eligible purchases through AmazonSmile, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price to the High Alert Institute. There is no cost to charitable organizations or to AmazonSmile customers. All you need to do is push the SMILE NOW button and select to support THE HIGH ALERT INSTITUTE on AmazonSmile.

Koi need forever homes, too! For pond enthusiasts, freshwater exotic and ornamental fish may not be available through pet stores or rescues in their area. The High Alert Institute Aquatic Pet Shelter Rehoming Program will be happy to assist you in stocking your new pond or adding a new finned friend to your school. Coming soon – when you adopt a Koi from the High Alert Institute Aquatic Pet Shelter Rehoming Program, we can arrange for delivery to your door anywhere in the continental United States.

Have you always wanted a Koi pond but don’t have the space one? Sponsor a Koi in our community shelter pond and we send you photos of your sponsored animal. Coming soon are live Koi Cameras above and below the water to enjoy your sponsored Koi anytime.

Dumping of freshwater non-native species and exotic aquatic pets into wild habitats is a man-made disaster that is truly preventable. The Institute’s Aquatic Pet Welfare Partnership works to raise awareness and reduce the impact on healthy ecosystems through education, as well as rescue and rehoming. Joined by champions of animal welfare and environmental stewardship, this  association of aquatic pet rescue operations and aquatic pet shelters across the United States aims to save our finned friends and preserve our waterways together.

Want to share our cause with family, friends, and colleagues? Looking for a non-traditional way to celebrate a birthday or honor someone special? Support the Institute by starting your own Peer-to-Peer fundraising challenge! Let your contacts know why our mission is important to you and what they can do to support your cause. START YOUR OWN FUNDRAISER for the High Alert Institute.

From the staffing pool to the shelter ponds, from the boardroom to the classroom, and from reading the science to writing the analyses, High Alert Institute programs and services benefit from the experience, expertise, and generosity of our volunteers. Put your talents to use for good and to good use – VOLUNTEER TODAY.

Make your donation twice as nice by rehoming aquatic pets and providing a rehabilitation companion pet to a deserving person, family, or facility. Sponsor part or all of a Joy of Koi Program pond installation – complete with rehomed koi – and give the gifts of love and recovery.

Professional photographers, amateurs, and legal copywrite holders are all welcome to participate in the High Alert Institute Nature Photo Donation Program. Sales of the images benefit the Institute and donors are eligible for tax deductions equivalent to the fair market value of their photos. Landscapes, seascapes, animals, flowers – all may be accepted – whether new or vintage  images. People may be included in the photo but only if unidentifiable (i.e., blurred figures at a distance).

Did you know that unused patents and copyrights can be donated to charity? Intellectual Property (IP) just sitting on a shelf will lose value as it becomes obsolete. The High Alert Institute IP Donation Program seeks to rescue stranded, technology-related IP with the potential for development into marketable products. Once accepted by the program, the owner/inventor is eligible for a tax deduction equivalent to the fair market value of the IP. The Institute receives the patent licensing fees or revenue from the sale of the IP to businesses, helping us to fund our mission. In turn, businesses are able to advance their markets and create jobs for less money than starting a project from scratch.

Disasters are defined as situations in which needs exceed or overwhelm available resources. Some disasters affect an entire community, while other disasters impact individuals and families. Crises of physical or psychological health can be very personal disasters.
The therapeutic value of pets during illness, trauma, and recovery is well established. And Koi fish may be well suited for people who are not able to provide verbal pet commands or physically care for pets like dogs and cats. Koi ponds are also a source of beauty and peace, providing an ideal setting for quiet reflection or meditation.
We are working to partner with pond installers and aquatic pet rescues/shelters to offer free or reduced-cost ponds with rehomed Koi fish to people seeking this type of pet therapy.

Disasters disrupt life and impact our sense of personal, family, and community safety. Survivors and responders alike often are not aware of the emotional, psychological or spiritual challenges that they may face from disaster onset through recovery. With two decades of experience training responders and communities to prepare for the behavioral health aspects of disasters, we will continue to provide education and a curated list of resources to groups or individuals.

Non-medical factors that impact overall health are termed Social Determinants of Health or SDoH. Noise pollution, poor air quality, and poor water quality are three environmental factors known to have a strong link to overall health. And the same environmental factors that impact humans impact their pets and other animals in their care. We continue to assist in advocacy, education, and technology development to mitigate the impact of SDoH on humans and animals alike.

Our efforts in shelter and rescue are the main focus of our environmental stewardship, reducing the environmental impact of non-native aquatic animals being dumped into public waterways. The High Alert Institute also assists innovators with the design, development, and evaluation of green and renewable energy technologies. Reducing the carbon footprint associated with disaster preparedness, response, and recovery furthers our continued mission to mitigate risk and improve resilience.

We partner with public and private organizations, sharing resources and fostering partnerships to improve disaster preparedness, response, and recovery, and mitigation.

The High Alert Institute team has over a century of combined research experience in medical, nursing, behavioral health, and disaster sciences. Our team provides support to researchers and technology developers through comprehensive literature searches and reviews, as well as failure mode database searches and adjudicated reviews.

When disaster strikes, most aquatic pet owners have limited options to secure the safety of their pets. Sheltering in place may not be possible if there is no power to provide aeration and “pet-friendly” shelters do not include ponds or aquariums. Our goal is to provide an option for aquatic pet owners in need of rescue and shelter for their finned friends.

Our goal is to share our two decades of disaster readiness experience with animal welfare organizations, shelters, caretakers, and pet owners, as they implement contingency  plans for natural and manmade disasters.

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High Alert Institute

4800 Ben Hill Trail
Lake Wales, FL 33898
Office: 863.696.8090
FAX: 407.434.0804


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