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Waiting is an underrated skill. In the army, one of the concepts we were always working towards was “hurry up and wait”. The concept is that we should be rapidly moving from one location to the next, usually very early in the morning. Then when we have arrived at the next location, wait around for hours for something to happen. I feel as though we could have started a bit later if we were just going to be waiting around all day. Was there a military necessity to be there at a specific time or did the person in charge do this to ensure there was no chance of us being late?

As I write this on 18th February, there are a number of incidents in which those who are likely to be affected are holding their breath and waiting to see what might happen. In Ukraine, the imminence of an invasion in the media seems to seesaw backwards and forwards. The invasion was coming on Wednesday, the Russians then said they were withdrawing troops, and again in the news today it seems that the invasion is still going to happen at some point. In the South of England, people are braced for the coming of Storm Eunice and the flooding and damage it may bring. As for myself, I have been exiled in my bedroom all week with COVID, and am counting down the days until I can complete my quarantine and come out.

Waiting during an incident is a concept we really need to simulate in an exercise. Perhaps those responding are not aware that there can be lulls in the incident response, and so when the lull comes they don’t know what to do and feel as though they should be doing something. Sometimes overreacting can be just as damaging to the response as a lack of reaction. You may not want to draw attention to your incident, and by carrying out an unnecessary activity you can make people aware of it when they don’t need to know.

We are going to be running an exercise for a utility company, and have told their gold team that the exercise will take place sometime on a Friday. They will have a brief first thing and then carry on working as they normally would, and wait for the exercise to start. As we are involving all tiers of the company’s response teams, it would take some time for the incident to escalate to their gold team, and they should only react when it is appropriate for them to react. I think this approach is much more realistic than getting the team into their incident room, and then bombarding them with injects for 4 hours.

We will see what happens today and what the next few days bring. But, when planning your exercise see if you can build in a lull, even if it’s only for 10-15 minutes to simulate the hurry up and wait.

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