When was the last time you went to a training session and were told you should leave your cell phones and pagers ON? BOMA Chattanooga members heard exactly those words when Attainium Corp. conducted its Disaster Experience interactive simulation.
“In a real emergency, cell phones and pagers could be critical communication tools,” said Bob Mellinger, Attainium president and chief executive officer, “and you would never turn them off. In our Disaster Experience, we strive to create a realistic atmosphere and cell phones are definitely a part of that experience. Occasionally, people have to leave the session for one reason or another, and that, too, is a realistic occurrence… in a real emergency, people are always coming and going. This session really tests participants’ ability to handle whatever comes along while staying focused on the goals of safety and business survivability.”
“All organizations have situations pop up all the time,” said Pam Torrie, facilities coordinator for Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Tennessee, and the executive for BOMA Chattanooga. “We felt this training, which Attainium has done for other BOMA affiliates, was a timely offering and BOMA executives agreed.”
“BOMA Chattanooga felt it was a good session with relevant information on business continuity and disaster recovery,” said Richard Meadows, participant and director of Corporate Facilities Operations for UnumProvident Corporation. “The training moved quickly and smoothly and looked at a lot of realistic, possible scenarios. One key point that surfaced was the importance of communication in handling an emergency situation – communication with tenants, employees, first responders, the media, and other groups.”
According to Attainium’s Mellinger, communication in a crisis is one of the weakest areas in many disaster response plans. “Successful response to the situations in the simulation requires good communication; participants quickly learn the repercussions of failing to communicate. Another aspect of the training highlights the potential fallout from making decisions without considering their impact.”
“The Disaster Experience reinforced the reality that every decision you make affects everyone, so you need to look carefully before you do things,” said Donna Roach, a project manager for fire damage situations for ServPro of North Chattanooga. “The exercise drove home the fact that snap judgments might not be the best way. You have to think things through.”
Working in teams of six to eight people, participants used open discussion and/or role playing to work through the exercise as various crises unfolded. “It’s always better to have more than one point of view, and it was very helpful to see what other people in the group thought about how to handle problems that arose,” Roach said.
Richard Meadows’ group also found great benefit in the different points of view around the table. “We worked with people we don’t work with on a daily basis, so we could pull from their different experiences.”
Craig Miller, a property manager with Healthcare Realty Services and a 19-year property management veteran, agreed. “Anytime you are in a situation like this, you get a somewhat new perspective and see things you’ve taken for granted,” he said. “You start to reevaluate everything. It’s a good wake-up call to reinforce the need to keep things current.
“I think it was great that the team worked off each other’s experience, and I gained insights from other individuals to help me deal with life safety issues. We relied on each other’s experience during the exercise and we all benefited from that exchange of ideas.”
“More than anything,” said Torrie, “the session made me think about what I hadn’t thought about. It gave me the confidence to know that, with a team, we could assess the situation and quickly decide how to proceed.”
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