Contingency Planning – “Drills” and “Exercises”

[Ref AVIA4020 Lesson 9]

“Drills” v.s “Exercises”



smaller scope, less participant


more complex, inter-departmental/parties


exercise “play”, closely “scripted”


less “scripted”, more dynamic


testing laid down procedures (relatively little deviation)


testing processes as well as procedures


e.g fire drills, alert callout drills


e.g airplane crash, building evacuation & recovery



Although there are few difference between drill(s) and exercise(s), both are planners’ best tool to:

  1. getting buy-in from stakeholders
  2. testing new procedures & process
  3. training personnel to make plans
  4. build confidence
  5. motivate personnel throug “practice”/“self experience”
  6. to validate & promote BCP programs

Pre-exercise planning

No matter planning for a drill or an exercise, core persons as well as a team must include in the early planning state. They have responsibilities for below tasks:

  1. Define objectives
    • “SMART” method – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Result oriented/Realistic and Time bound/Traceable
    • 5W & 1H – Who, What, When, Where, Why, How
  2. Discuss and communicate with players & owners
    • meeting with different players & owners to make consensus on the plan
  3. Budget
    • different costs involved – e.g venue rental, overtime, souvenirs etc.


Debrief for a drill/an exercise

Debrief is a very important part after a drill/an exercise. It should be considered part of the drill/exercise when carrying out pre-planning. Debrief has various functions:

  1. identify whether procedures is working or not
  2. review on those areas in which need improvement
  3. great tool for motivation
  4. grate opportunity to show senior management effectiveness & the need for BCPs


Hot debrief v.s Formal debrief

Debrief, in general, is divided into two forms:

  1. Hot debrief
  2. Formal debrief

Hot debrief is held immediately after the drill/exercise. It usually lasts for up to 20 minutes. Each functional unit carries out their own “hot debrief” to achieve 2 main objectives – 1) identify & emphasize things down well and flag areas where improvements might be needed. However, the hot debrief should be motivational and end with positive note.

Formal debrief, in contrast, is held a bit later after the drill/exercise. Usually, the formal debrief has relatively more objectives than hot debrief – 1) identify problems, 2) generate solutions, 3) define specific and measurable targets, 4) set the completion timelines, 5) assign responsible parties for follow-up actions.


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