2017 Disaster Simulation Debrief

Every year, a fresh group of Allen residents put 8 weeks and 24 hours of classroom training to the test by being throw into the ultimate simulated disaster. For the students, this day is a critical step to convert training into experience. However, equally important, is the opportunity for the Allen CERT program to exercise old and new tactics for managing an incident, and setting the class up for success. Following each simulated disaster, we make it a priority to sit around the table and evaluate our methods to ensure we are continually improving planning and execution for future classes. This year was no different, and the team – made up of veteran and brand new members – pulled together a robust list of strengths and opportunities identified in this year’s exercise that will translate into a better experience next year.

Big Wins

We set several new records this year; First, by facilitated the largest class in Allen CERT history this year with 44 students (now members) participating in the final exercise.

A large-scale call to action resulted in over 110 volunteers from around Allen playing various victim roles.

32 Allen CERT members showed up on “simulation day” to contribute 340 hours to the event’s success.

We also implemented new tools and techniques, such as reusable triage cards and a magnetic ICS accountability board, both of which proved valuable.

Key Strengths

Many of the volunteer victims were “walking wounded” which added more chaos to the mix and tested the class’ ability to clear the fog of a disaster scene.

The class managed to complete the exercise in record time!


Following the exercise, AFD 5C-shift hosted a panel discussion that was very engaging, helped stitch together holistic operations, and allowed the class an opportunity to evaluate their strengths.

To top it off, we were extremely fortunate to have transportation and security graciously donated by the Allen Independent School District!

Key Improvement Opportunities

Communications is one our strongest pillars and remains so because we prioritize its ongoing evaluation.

This year is no different and we recognized several opportunities to simplify, expand, and/or improve our disaster simulation communications model.

Resource check-in was quickly bottle-necked which resulted in a slow start to search and rescue operations. This was largely caused by the sheer size of the class but, with the increasing forecast of future classes, some excellent ideas were proposed for mitigating this in the future – a solution is being tested already with great initial results.

We quickly discovered that 110 volunteer victims introduce more oversight and management complexity. Going forward, a more robust briefing, instructions, and management model will help mitigate volunteer/responder confusion.


We make a huge effort to implement new tools and tactics into each disaster simulation which undoubtedly produces both positive and negative results. We consider this success because, without negative results, we do not innovate.

Hat tip to Traci Reavis for organizing this year’s (and past years’) disaster simulation and facilitating the debrief.

We are all looking forward to next  year!