The Top 3 Mistakes Campuses Make When Conducting Tabletop Exercises

These common errors could make your school or university tabletop exercises ineffective.

Emergency tabletop exercises can help to improve campus safety and security. There are, however, some common missteps that campuses should avoid. Paul Timm, who is vice presidents of FEA, should know. He is a campus security expert who regularly conducts tabletop exercises across the nation.

Because he has had so much experience conducting these exercises, CS has asked him to outline the top three mistakes campuses make when they conduct their tabletop sessions.

Timm: “I think the biggest mistake is if we’re not conducting, because of whatever the reason might be. Maybe we think we’re not ready, maybe we think we won’t have enough participation, I don’t know. But that’s obviously the biggest mistake.

“I would say the second mistake, if we are conducting them, is we let somebody come in who kind of runs something themselves, instead of us all actually participating. And that can happen if you’ve got a big personality involved. I think it must be collaboratively drawn up, and people must be prepared for what we’re going to be participating in.

“And I think one of the bigger mistakes that we find too is that sometimes they’re not time bounded enough. So you’re going to go to a tabletop exercise, you arrive there in the morning, and the next thing you know it’s spilling over into end of morning/lunch. I think it’s important to have them time bounded, and what I will do at the Campus Safety Conferences coming up is make sure that as we organize into groups, and we’re assigned stakeholder roles, that when they get the questions after the scenarios come up on the board, they get a very short amount of time to wrestle with how they would answer those questions, how they would respond.

“I think that little bit of stress, little bit of tension, helps us understand that these kind of emergencies don’t unfold on our time. It keeps people engaged, they’re not going “Okay, what’s that person going to talk about next.” We’re all engaged.

“I think those are the things we would avoid, so that we could have something that was more effective”.

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About the Author

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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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