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Plan AHEAD

All Hazard Exercise Administration and Development

Prepare for any threat to standard operations

Disgruntled employees?  Network outage?  Product safety recall?  Civil Disturbance?  Y2K?    Bomb threat?  Executive kidnaping? Network failure?  Hazardous materials spill?  Industrial espionage?  Tornado, fire, flood, earthquake, volcano, winter storm, drought?  These low probability and high impact events are just a few of the thousands of potential threats to your on-going operations!  How can you improve your capability to not just survive, but continue to thrive in such conditions?

Management exercises are the best means to create plans, train participants and test quality.  Plan AHEAD is the world's best exercise development system!

 Supports all exercise types and scales

Use Plan AHEAD to create the materials to prepare for, conduct, evaluate, review and track the outcome of management exercises. Table-top exercises, informal but crucial, are used to develop plans and establish responsibilities between and among all affected parties.  Functional exercises train plan participants through role playing.  Full scale exercises test the degree of plan operational readiness.  Actual occurrences of plan activation can be documented within the product, as this influences both future exercises and plans.

 Plan AHEAD produced materials help improve the quality of existing plans and are used to exercise ANY MANAGEMENT PLAN, especially useful for contingency plans such as emergency response, crisis management, disaster recovery, safety, security, computer operations, hazardous materials spill response, medical, military, ISO 9000/14000 quality improvement plans, product acceptance testing, Y2K contingency plans and other plans for continuity of operations.

 Produce many types of exercise materials

Plan AHEAD develops materials to drive management plan exercises.  By presenting participants with a set of problem statements or messages, and carefully evaluating their responses, Plan AHEAD measures how well (or if) the plan overcomes a hazard.  Narratives, messages, major and minor events, evaluation forms and all other reports created from the data base are thorough and high quality exercise materials.  Lessons Learned are tracked, along with corrective actions.  Plan corrections and subsequent exercises can be influenced by prior results in a continuous cycle of plan quality improvement.

An entire section of the product is devoted to logistics tracking.  Many times exercises fail due to a failure of logistics.  While the product can't deliver the catered lunch to the correct location and on-time, it does remind you to provide food for participants.  Well fed participants are more likely to enjoy their exercise experience and they will want to participate again.  Communications plans, press relations plans, security and safety, the weather on the day and other logistical considerations are documented.

 Reasons to exercise contingency plans:

  • Assure operational readiness, Practice plan procedures
  • Identify further training needs
  • Expose executives to the stress of emergency decision making
  • Strengthen infrequently called upon relationships
  • Create new plan items, test existing plan items
  • Build teams within and outside the organization
  • Meet regulation and industry accreditation requirements, avoid legal liabilities, and much more!

 Finally, a standard methodology

FEMA's (Federal Emergency Management Agency) model for exercise design and evaluation is followed throughout the product.  This model was deemed both robust enough for the worst possible regional disaster scenario and equally effective when handling less cataclysmic problems.  Since emergency exercises may involve participants from outside your organization, getting something useful out of sharing the experience is one key component.  Plan AHEAD users share the exercise development experience as well.  This goes a long way to establishing good working relationships with exercise partners, partners you'll count on to help you when reacting to ``the real thing".

Traditionally, plans for security, utility outage (electricity, pipeline, voice/data networks), safety, medical, and the like, benefit from exercising.  These emergency and business continuity plans are not the only types of plans that can be evaluated using this methodology.  ANY MANAGEMENT PLAN can benefit from exercising.   The FEMA model (a basic ``management by objective" military model adapted to exercising) applies as well to marketing or HR plans, which have not traditionally been exercised.  As matrix management becomes more of the norm, exercises can be performed to assist in team building.  Exercising can help organizations with their plans for continuous process improvement, and total quality management.

 Product structure facilitates ease of use

Plan AHEAD is a standalone database application with an embedded word processor and report generator.  A 16 bit Win3.11 compatible application (it also operates under Win95/98 and WinNT Client) appears as a notebook on screen.   Each page contains a logical set of simple data entry tasks.  Ease of use functions include sample exercises that restore to their original state, even after changes are practiced by the end user.  Extensive on-line help describes each control on each page.  The Concepts section is a tutorial regarding exercising and answers why one should perform a particular development step.  A set of Guides show users how advanced functions operate.  There are libraries of functional requirements, exercise objectives, messages and more.  Developers can find an item, edit it to their needs, and save it back to the library.  Over time, libraries will make the exercise developer even more productive as libraries build up organizational specifics as they are tailored to a particular operation.  Libraries are also a means whereby organization-wide standards of quality can be instituted.  See the Shuttle Technology discussion below to understand one way that multiple users are accommodated.

 Exercise creation is a step by step approach.

Plan AHEAD takes the exercise developer from the needs assessment stage (what specifically in my plan needs to be exercised?) through evaluation development (how can we measure participant's performance and compare their actions to those identified in the plan?), through lessons learned (that will influence subsequent exercises) and corrective actions (tracking who does what to fix the plan, by when and for how much).  Plan AHEAD can be used one day, and then not used for months, yet it will still seem familiar to users.

  Share workload with other design team members, improving your productivity

Plan AHEAD brings unique productivity aids to the exercise developer.  Plan AHEAD's Shuttle Technology allows for workload sharing between exercise partners during exercise development and evaluation.  Shuttles essentially allow the exercise developer to copy a page out of the notebook, and electronically (or via diskette) share that page with an exercise partner.  In other words, a Shuttle is a limited function copy of Plan AHEAD, that can be run by a remote computer, either connected via a network or standalone, to facilitate data entry tasks.  Once the partner has completed their data entry task and returned the Shuttle, their data is returned and included within the now jointly developed exercise.  The best part is that Shuttle recipients do not have to own Plan AHEAD to participate as Shuttle operators.  This greatly reduces the total cost of ownership, while sharing workload, providing a standardized input capability, improving exercise quality and achieving design team management simultaneously.

 Plan AHEAD assists in the management of design and evaluation teams.  Plan AHEAD can also be used to establish organization-wide resources related to exercising.  A library of exercising objectives can be established and distributed to all Plan AHEAD users within an organization.  The support of standards, along with measurement, is a key benefit.

 Plan AHEAD builds the paperwork to run an exercise.

Each field and table of data in Plan AHEAD is capable of being included in a merge document.  The embedded word processor sets up a template of fields and tables to be included in a report, and the report is then generated using the current exercise data.  The template is then available to use during the next exercise, and the report can be further edited in any word processing program.

 The database reporting module is capable of an almost unlimited number of different reports, with choices of paper orientation (landscape or portrait), font type and size etc.  Templates that create particular reports such as those described below, and others, can be included within a master template to form reports such as the COSIN (controller and staff instructions) and the Exercise Plan (a roadmap of the exercise).

 Plan AHEAD formats include:

Exercise Directive - an invitation to exercise

Master Sequence of Events List - the exercise script can include up to 23 different fields of information.  The MSEL is just one of over 40 different tables of data within the product.  Fields may be displayed or non-displayed, and their order across the screen changed (along with their width).  Data can be included or filtered out, and sorted.  Once manipulation is complete, a view of the table is saved.  This view is ultimately included in a template, or merge document.  With 23 total fields, the MSEL can contain a lot of information.  However, by selecting only certain fields to be displayed (for example, message time, message content, message-from and message-to fields) exercise management tasks can be performed, even before the exercise takes place.  Using the fields suggested, and sorting by message time, one can discern whether too many or too few messages are being sent from a particular simulator at a given time.  This information is difficult to determine with a word processor, but will stand out in a Plan AHEAD report.  The exercise designer now can choose, assign more simulators, or move the messages to another time to smooth out the rate.

Another aspect of the MSEL is that it includes Controller Notes, or stage direction for the controller of the exercise.  In this way, the controller can include or skip messages, to allow for exercise continuity, and to slow or speed the action.  Skip time is supported, along with a 24 hour clock option for message labeling.

 Messages - either a single message to a page (with or without expected actions) or listings of messages sorted and selected appropriately.  Messages (sometimes known as exercise injects) are used to simulate the outside world, and give participants something to react to.  Messages are also used to drive participants into making choices.

 Evaluations - Of pivotal importance to an exercise, evaluations reflect the exercise objectives.  Objectives are, in the best of all possible worlds, measurable.  Plan AHEAD supports many question types that automatically format on the page.  Create a question and Plan AHEAD automatically creates a printable form, an electronic version to collect the results, and creates an Evaluation Response Shuttle.  After the exercise is over exercise evaluators use the Shuttle to amplify and expound on the answers they took down on the evaluation printout during the exercise.  Users report this makes for much higher quality evaluation results than previously obtained.  It also makes for far fewer errors when including the raw evaluation data into the process.  No more hard to read answers, the evaluation team will already have keyed in the answers for you on the Shuttle.

Selective reporting - Players, observers, simulators, controllers, and evaluators can now have separate reports printed with role specific information.  This selective printing function potentially saves hundreds of dollars of printing and copying costs as each participant can now obtain just the information they need to be effective during the exercise.

Training tracking - Plan AHEAD can be used to track the training history of participants.

After-action report - Plan AHEAD can greatly assist in generating the after-action report, as much of this report is a summary of exercise design and development activities.  While the conclusions drawn are your own, the basis for those conclusions can hit the page consistently every time, using the reporting structures in Plan AHEAD.  The product is also used to document actual incidents, as these also affect future plans and exercises.

Sharing - The product supports exercise sharing.  Oversight agencies and/or departments can review exercise outcome for credit.  Exercises can also be cooperatively prepared by multiple users, samples can be established and distributed within an organization, and more!

Lots More - Having the data stored in a data base means that thousands of reports specific to your operation are easily and consistently formatted, stored and printed.

 Benefits of Plan AHEAD

Productivity, Creative Freedom, Quality Improvement

Novice exercise developers quickly become exercise development ``pros".  Long time exercise developers appreciate the ease of use and comprehensive nature of Plan AHEAD.  By using Plan AHEAD, exercise development, evaluation and plan improvement are all included in one continuous process.  That is the basic purpose of the product, to support the entire process of exercise development along with outcome management, at each stage of plan development, training and plan improvement.

Estimates of the value of Plan AHEAD vary from organization to organization.  One measure that seems consistent across organizations is that it takes, using word processing, about one month of work per hour of real-time exercise practice (functional, fully scripted exercise).  Users of Plan AHEAD have indicated they are better off using the product by 50-75%, or, up to three times faster, using Plan AHEAD  Certain tasks (evaluation development and formatting) are shortened by an even greater percentage (on the order of a 10 to one improvement, with a huge increase in quality).

The other major benefit reported by users is that Plan AHEAD helps focus their effort.  It is nothing like staring at a blank word processing screen.  The step by step approach to development, along with the emphasis on exercise objectives, means that smaller, shorter, simpler exercises can now accomplish more than larger, longer and more expensive exercises did in the past. 

Many organizations have spent many thousands of dollars on software that simply documents their contingency plan.  Using Plan AHEAD givesorganizations a chance to measure the plan quality, before they are needed in an actual incident.  The value to these organization is tremendous, not just in terms of planning dollars saved and/or justified, but in potential for lives saved, and operations now better ready to withstand disruption. 

 Users report their exercises are now

twice as productive!

Need to know more?

 Call Cliffside Software, Inc. toll free:
1-888-PLAN-IT-X (888-752-6489)
International - 1-503-788-9503
Facsimile - 1-503-777-18900
www.cliffsidesoftware.com
info@cliffsidesoftware.com

 

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