Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Emergency training -- okay so it's boring -- until it saves a life

Let's face it...probably no one wants to attend an emergency preparedness or emergency response training session. It's usually pretty dry stuff, it may involve giving mouth-to-mouth to a plastic mannequin missing its limbs, and it probably will keep you away from that pile of work that's already overdue.

There's only one thing worse than attending emergency training sessions -- and that's teaching them. You know, you just know, that everyone in the class would rather be somewhere else. And quite frankly, so would you. But you do the class because OSHA requires it. Or your state or your industry mandates it.

But then one day, the unthinkable happens. Someone falls off a forklift. Or has a heart attack right there in the lunch room. Or a blizzard shuts down the roads and the electricity, and you have two dozen people in the office. with no heat. And suddenly all that safety training or emergency response training kicks in, and people know what to do (and what NOT to do) and a life is saved. Or do they? Were they listening as someone droned on about first aid? Or emergency shelter?

That's the flip side of emergency training. The point of it all, that's hard to remember when that plastic dummy appears in the middle of the room. This stuff really is about life and death.

So what can we, as trainers and HR pros, do to make the very necessary and often mandatory safety training or emergency response training a little more palatable?

1) Make it fun

We've said it here before, and I will say it again. THERE IS NO REASON TRAINING CANNOT BE FUN! Whew, that felt good! Did y'all hear it? Examples?

Instead of training from a book, with a lecture, teach the basics and then turn the training session into a custom version of Jeopardy, complete with buzzers. "Yes, Alex, "I'll take Blood and Bones for $200" is lots more fun than "if a bone appears to be broken, stabilize the limb with a..." Yawn!

Throw things! Okay, not heavy things like supervisors or even small rocks, but fun things like foam balls or stuffed bears wearing safety helmets. Someone asks a question and tosses the toy. The catcher has to answer, then gets to ask the next question and toss the toy. And so on. The game moves fast, the answers stick. Much easier to keep people's attention on a subject like proper tagging of machinery when something is flying around the room and they have 30 seconds to answer!

Give prizes! No, we are not in third grade, but yes, we do still like to get prizes. Talking pens, chocolate bars, movie tickets, desk toys. Small stuff. But it keeps people paying attention and playing along.

That's it. Simple, right? You thought there would be more, just because I put a "1" in front of "Make it fun" didn't you? Ha! Just having some fun. Try it. As weird as it sounds, it just might save someone's life someday.

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