Thursday, July 3, 2008

Prepared for the unthinkable

I spent a fascinating couple of days this week. I enrolled last year on the new Kent Leadership Programme, which brings together senior managers and members from Kent County Council, Health, Police and the voluntary sector to teach us the skills required for tomorrow's leadership challenges.

Module three was this week, and set out to teach us resilience in crisis management, across both local and international boundaries. To do this, we attended the Kent Police Training College to spend time in the 'Hydra Suite'. This is a facility where, split into small groups, we were shut into small 'syndicate rooms' - where all information and intelligence is filtered through a central control room.

Various "crisis simulations" were sprung on us, where available information was limited, where both public and the media needed our instant reponses, and where urgent briefings were needed from us within impossibly short timescales. The whole exercise was designed to heap pressure on us, changing goalposts and bombarding us with intelligence, some valuable and some worthless. Our rooms are wired for sound and vision, and our reactions, discussions and team dynamics were all monitored and reviewed after the exercise.

The whole two days were pressured, fraught and scary. Such crises can occur at any time - remember foot and mouth across the county? Or the flooding which threatened our coastal sea defences? Or even the hopelessly improbable Folkestone earthquake?

For those of us who work to deliver services day in, day out to hundreds of thousands of people across Kent, this training is invaluable and critical. After this course I feel a lot more confident and prepared for the unthinkable.

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