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Extreme event: Let’s play a game 

Rob Fagan introduces the US National Academy of Sciences’ LabX and its free series of exercises known as the 'Extreme Event Game'. 

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In the game, players work together to solve problems during disaster simulations. Image: Ivan Soima|123rf 

When is the last time you had a really good exercise? I’m not talking about the gym, although we could all use that! In emergency management it can be very rewarding and eye opening to see the perspectives that other disciplines can bring to our profession while changing and improving our own understanding. 

Deciding what type of exercise (discussion or operations-based) can be difficult, as can be deciding which scenarios and type of scenario development best meet exercise objectives. Fortunately, LabX has done a lot of this work for us, making it available for free.

According to the website, Extreme Event is an in-person role-playing game that gives participants a taste of what it takes to build community resilience in the face of disaster. Players work together to make decisions and solve problems during an engaging, fast-paced disaster simulation.

Developed in collaboration with the Resilient America Roundtable, Extreme Event’s content draws on recommendations from the seminal National Research Council 2012 report Disaster Resilience: A National Imperative and has been reviewed by experts and staff of the US National Academies.

Educators, emergency managers, non-profit leaders and many others are playing the game with a great deal of success. Some of the benefits that organisations may see include, but are not limited to, team building, critical thinking, and problem solving. Three scenarios are available to drive exercise objectives with some of the world’s most common disasters – earthquake, hurricane, and flooding.

LabX makes the game available in a variety of ways. First, by downloading all the materials for print or use on computers. This method is very complete and comes with everything needed to work from a portal or use the audio and visual effects separately. The next available method is renting. By filling out a simple form and answering questions about what the organisation is trying to achieve and how many people will be participating, LabX will send its materials almost anywhere in the world for the cost of shipping. Lastly, for the cost of travel, LabX will come to the organisation.

LabX has facilitated this exercise all over the US and it has significant global experience which is beneficial for large organisations or conferences. When the travel costs of two individuals versus the costs for exercise design, preparation, and delivery of a large functional exercise are compared, having ‘plug and play’ experts might be just what the doctor ordered.

Having recently completed LabX’s train-the-trainer course for the Extreme Event myself, I fully endorse this concept and its product for several reasons. It’s professionally done without lots of government or emergency management-speak where we are often our own worst enemies when dealing with those outside of our profession. Secondly, it’s fun and easy to play but, like chess, hard to master. Lots of variables and tangents on game set up make iterations of play different. Thirdly, there’s truth in advertising because it is fast-paced and finishes in just a couple of hours. It is just the right length for most organisational objectives. Finally, with a little bit of reading, just about anyone who wants to bring a world-class exercise to their organisation (large or small) can do it. No extensive background or professional depth in emergency management or disaster preparation and response is required.

So, what are you doing this summer? Why don’t we play a game and make it LabX’s Extreme Event!

Find out how to access the game here.

Train today; live tomorrow! 

Robert Fagan, 15/07/2019
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