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Implementing Gamification in Emergency Response Plan Training for Security Professionals.

Emergency Response Plan Training for Security

Gamification involves integrating game-like elements such as storytelling, goals, and challenges into non-game contexts to enhance engagement and motivation. It focuses on achieving measurable outcomes through stages, which participants and instructors can track using time, points, pass/fail, or other metrics to show progress. Gamification can be implemented as a single-user/team experience or in a competitive setting to drive specific results and influence behaviour.

In recent years, there has been a noticeable shift in the security industry, with compliance metrics taking precedence over performance metrics for security clients. This shift has led to a focus, for example, On how many security guards have completed first aid training rather than how effectively security personnel respond during medical emergencies.

Regrettably, the transition from Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to Key Compliance Indicators (KCIs) has led to an overemphasis on compliance records. While this shift is intended to ensure regulatory adherence, it has left security staff feeling unprepared and undervalued. Leadership's heavy reliance on compliance records for evaluation and improvement has further exacerbated this issue.

The Value of Emergency Response Plan Training

As the primary role of security operatives is to manage risk, it is crucial to prepare for the future with a stronger emphasis on comprehensive Emergency Response Training. For instance, in a retail setting, a theft or social disruption could escalate to the point where an individual discharges bear spray indoors, posing a significant threat to patrons and staff. A comprehensive approach to emergency response is the key to effectively managing such situations.

This kind of emergency response requires a comprehensive strategy and the involvement of multiple staff members to resolve the situation safely and effectively. However, the current focus tends to be primarily on apprehending the assailant, neglecting other important aspects of emergency response.

When common scenarios are treated as gamification topics, response plans would be more comprehensive, knowledge and skills gaps can be easily identified, and overall security performance and public trust in security would significantly improve.

Gamification in Security Training

The use of gamification in training within the security industry has proven highly beneficial. In the past two years, the industry has faced higher expectations, leading to a greater demand for improved performance from all parties involved.

Security personnel seek to feel more supported, engaged, valued, and confident in their duties. Clients and other departments expect security teams to respond and resolve issues in a manner that aligns with the company culture and public perception. The general public desires to feel safer in their daily lives, both at work and during personal time. However, instances where the public has sought help from security and received an unfavorable response have led to a negative public opinion, reinforcing the reluctance to ask for assistance.

Building a storyline around common issues and focusing less on critical topics makes it easier to identify gaps and develop creative solutions. Implementing this approach does not necessarily require additional costs but rather a better understanding of policies, adjustments, and alignment of contradictory policies to enhance overall communication across various stages.

Several clear and measurable benefits are expected within the initial hours or weeks of implementing gamification-based training, including increased staff inquiries for clarification, suggestions for bridging gaps, enhanced reporting with more relevant details, and improved consistency in applying policies and protocols.

However, incorporating gamification-based training poses challenges, such as uncertainty in initiating the process, staff resistance to change from existing training routines, organizations feeling uneasy about exposure points as they are uncovered during training, and identifying how to measure the success of the training outcomes.

It's important to note that gamification in training doesn't solely encompass simulated scenario training. It can also involve online learning tools specifically designed to create story-based training or assessments, tabletop scenarios, and team discussions.

Example of Successful Gamification in Security Training

I worked with a SCOPE security client to explore the concept of using a gamification assessment to evaluate the effectiveness of their in-house security training. We started with a basic Fire Evacuation Assessment, simulating a scenario where a fire breaks out in a multi-story building during harsh winter conditions.

The scenario, a testament to the crucial role of the security team, began with a small fire on the 15th floor, which could be controlled within 3 minutes. If the response plan was not executed within this time frame, the fire would escalate, triggering a stage 2 Fire Evacuation. This semi-mock scenario allowed us to observe the security team's response without causing any disruption to the tenants, emphasizing their vital role in the safety of the building.

During the scenario, a control room operator alerted a security guard to investigate where the stage 1 fire alarm was triggered. The security guard reached the 15th floor within 1.5 minutes but failed to bring a fire extinguisher as per protocol. The delay in the response caused the fire to become uncontrollable.

As the situation escalated to a stage 2 Fire Evacuation, we observed that the security guards were uncertain about prioritizing the evacuation of specific floors and handling the evacuation of the 15th floor, which was now affected by heavy smoke.

We also simulated a scenario in which building occupants faced various challenges, such as exposure to extreme cold at the muster point without jackets, smoke inhalation, and fire / heat-related injuries. This gamification assessment highlighted the need to establish protocols for weather emergencies and medical evaluation at muster points.

The control room operator, feeling overwhelmed, had to coordinate fire evacuation, manage injuries, and assist in locating an individual who used a wheelchair within the building while also simulating a 911 call for added complexity.

After the scenario, we debriefed and identified the need to refine the evacuation process, update equipment and policies, and provide further training. This not only highlighted areas for improvement but also presented valuable learning opportunities, instilling a sense of hope and motivation for a more efficient progression between stages and better coordination among the team.

Storytelling and Narrative

When choosing a training partner or developing your own gamification program, it is important that you are using a narrative that that tells a story that is common, likely and realistic. It is very easy to go for the more significant impacts of severity, but the building blocks starts with what we know as adults and we can then develop more impactful scenario’s as the team improves their performance.

A quality storyline and narrative has to have a beginning, middle and end to the scenario. Once this has been developed, then add conflict or challenge people-based conflict, skills challenge, prioritize decision making, environmental impacts, and staff habits, to name a few.

Try not to build too many factors into your scenario. Identify critical elements that can be either a success if all goes well, and if it does not go well, what is the result of the complication? Ad the result.

The overall objective is not speed. Identify what success looks like for your organization. Is it based on safety, detail, management injury or property, or is it about optics? Or critical communication under stress?

For example, let’s have a situation where the scenario did not end well, resulting in a fatality due to drug toxicity, but the measurement for the scenario was the communication and coordination of the staff. The principal object is a 5/5 score, but the resulting identification requires more training on drug toxicity response.

Simulations and Scenarios

Using simulations and scenario tests assesses knowledge and retention and measures how staff and procedures can handle stress tests. Simulations can involve props, actors (including informal staff with designated roles), and environmental conditions such as lighting, smoke, and noise.

Scenarios are essentially the storylines we discussed. While not all scenarios require simulation, the more simulation involved, the more we can inspire and motivate our staff, facilitating a smoother transition from attendance to training to education to skill.

For instance, consider creating a drug toxicity scenario. A willing staff member can be prepared with minimal makeup to appear pale or with a light blue tinge on the nose, lips, and fingertips. They would be briefed to act unresponsive with shallow breathing and occasional snoring sounds, lying semi-prone on the floor of a locked bathroom stall.

A security staff member would encounter this scenario during a regular bathroom patrol and respond as usual. A designated observer would be responsible for the assessment, making observations throughout the simulation without interruption or coaching.

This simulation would test whether the patrolling security staff responds to protocols, performs a scene and primary assessment, and correctly applies emergency procedures and interventions. After the scenario, debriefing and feedback from all participants, including the "patient," would be crucial.

Establishing effective feedback loops at this stage is not just a process but a commitment. Debriefing and feedback sessions should occur at the end of each scenario and throughout to allow real-time identification of opportunities for improvement, which can enhance real-world emergency response events.

Interactive elements can include effective communication, using technology like timers, red light/green light situations, fog machines to simulate smoke, and practicing report writing in real situations.

Best Practices for Implementing Gamification in Security Training

Gamification's core method leverages incentives and rewards to motivate individuals. These rewards are only sometimes tangible; they can manifest as achievements, such as high scores or conquering challenging tasks. The human brain, particularly the part that wonders, "What's in it for me?" craves a sense of progress and accomplishment. Unfortunately, this need is often disregarded in adult life, particularly security. This neglect can lead to stagnation and underperformance.

A new training model can inject new life into the staff, uncover hidden talents, and pinpoint areas for improvement. Organizations can devise scenarios in three categories: standard, likely, and extreme events. These scenarios can be formulated based on how staff can succeed and work backward. This tiered structure fosters a sense of progress and anticipation while also encouraging collaboration and healthy competition.

A new training model should be designed to be inclusive, recognizing the growth and progress of all participants. The focus is not on being the best but on continual practice and improvement. By making the results of each scenario public, transparency is ensured, and the value of each individual's contribution is acknowledged. Tailoring scenarios to be meaningful for frontline staff, management, and stakeholders ensures that everyone is committed to the overall outcome, making each person feel valued and considered.

Security departments and organizations that incorporate a more immersive gamification model into their security staff training and mentoring will develop a more agile team capable of responding to real-life emergencies and adapting to changing market conditions.

It is crucial to focus on performance-based questions and assessments when selecting trainers, whether in-house or contracted. It's not just about workshop credentials but about real-world experiences, an understanding of adult learning, and a taxonomy model that works for your organization. Trainers with firsthand experience can bring valuable insights to the training, more effectively bridging the gap between training and field operations.

For example, it is of utmost importance to select first aid instructors with real-life emergency experience. This firsthand experience is crucial for understanding the actual challenges, frustrations, and unexpected elements of emergencies, which in turn is essential for effective emergency response.

If you're interested in delving deeper into gamification-based training for your organization, whether to support your training team's implementation or to explore how SCOPE Safety & Security can measurably enhance your security teams' performance in relation to Emergency Response Plans, please reach out to us. We offer a complimentary 45-minute consultation to assist you in constructing your own plan or to discuss how we can create one for you.

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