Someone once told me that practice does not make perfect as is so often claimed, and they were correct. Perfect practice makes perfect. I was reminded of this recently when conducting a table top exercise to test our ability to respond to an emergency event. In disaster response and business continuity planning it is always important that you practice the details correctly.
When faced with unusual circumstances humans quickly conduct a database search in their brain, looking for similar experiences to use as a reference point. They then act as they did then or as they observed. That is why training correctly is so important. What you do in training is what you will do when the real thing happens. For example, if your assignment is to record information and you have specific logs for that purpose then use them when training. Do not use blank sheets of paper or a handy whiteboard. Practice using the tools you've been given and set that mark indelibly in your brain.
There is another way to practice of course. That is to experience an actual event without preparation beforehand. Not the preferred way of learning in my book.
In his new book Business Continuity Management Michael Blythe addresses questions we should all be asking ourselves in the BCP arena.
Did pre-crisis assessments identify risks and prioritize them appropriately?
Did mitigation efforts offset the damage?
Were managers well equipped?
Did they implement contingency plans?
What post-incident risks were not anticipated?
How should strategies be modified in light of this experience?
What tactics, training and policies need to be revised?
Personally, I would rather learn the answers the easy way, by anticipating and practicing correctly, identifying gaps and re-mediating them before being faced with a real situation.