10 key steps for safe, effective simulation training
For the purposes of this discussion, let’s assume that the instructors reading this article already know the importance of simulation training (any instructor who doesn’t know simulation training should be the centerpiece of all training programs has more problems than can be solved here). Below, we will talk about developing a nuts-and-bolts template for scenario-based simulation training programs, not the importance of simulation.
Now that we’ve agreed on that foundation, let’s begin. There are 10 key steps for creating realistic, scenario-based, decision-making simulations. They are:
Step 1: Needs Assessment
Step 2: Levels of Simulation
For more information about the seven levels of simulations, visit www.policeone.com/klugvideos.html and watch the video under the Reference Material pull-down menu.
Step 3: Creating the Simulation Format
For examples of both blank and completed simulation worksheets, and a blank evaluation form, please review these forms at www.policeone.com/klughandouts.html under the Reference Material pull-down menu.
Step 4: Designing the Simulation
Carefully design, choreograph and rehearse your simulations, or they can lead to training injuries, the adoption of poor tactics and liability exposure.
Step 5: Training & Controlling Demonstrators
Remember: If you use officers for role players (and most of us do), they love to win. With adrenalin dumping, it’s hard for an untrained, unsupervised role player to remember that the ultimate goal of the demonstrator is eventually to lose (i.e., be controlled by the officer in the simulation). Yes, demonstrators need to be challenging and realistic, but if the trainee performs effective tactics, the demonstrator should give realistic responses and allow the technique to succeed.
Step 6: Providing the Training
Finally, instructors should make their training a positive learning experience. Properly explain what you expect of the student, conduct a fair, winnable scenario and properly debrief the student.
Step 7: Equipment & Safety Procedures
Simulation safety begins with the development of appropriate safety procedures, the development and use of safety officers, and the enforcement of stringent safety procedures. Many equipment manufacturers have developed safety procedures to use in conjunction with their equipment. Instructors should always follow these guidelines to prevent unnecessary liability.
Instructors must keep their officers safe from live-fire training accidents. RedMan Protective Equipment, in cooperation with the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors (IALEFI), has created a safety poster that outlines its three-check rule. Find this poster at www.policeone.com/klughandouts.html under the Reference Material pull-down menu.
Step 8: Creating Multidimensional Scenarios
To address the first issue, instruct officers to finish their simulation training with at least one full-length scenario that takes them from initial contact to debriefing the subject at the end of the incident. Address the second issue by teaching the officers transition drills that take them from verbal to empty hand tactics, empty hand to aerosol spray, baton to firearm, etc.
These multi-dimensional scenarios will assist officers in preventing the gridlock that often occurs when facing stressful situations because no bridges have been built between the multiple techniques and tactics officers are trained to use.
Step 9: Creating Multiple-Use Scenarios
To limit the number of scenarios needed to keep your officers honest, develop a subject-resistance matrix that gives all role players five separate roles, including:
Once you define each one of the roles, you can easily change scenarios by switching the role player’s role. This effectively gives you five versions of each scenario when using one role player.
It gets even more fun when you add a second role player, which allows 25 separate scenario versions. This adds an exciting, time-saving dimension to your scenario training because now, instead of creating a whole series of scenarios on a certain topic (e.g., domestic disturbances), you can create one scenario with 25 separate responses. So what if the officers know we are working on domestic disturbances? They don’t know what version they will have to respond to.
Even more important, they will start to place the subjects that they deal with in these five separate categories and learn preplanned tactics for dealing with them more effectively. As an added bonus, officers start transferring these multiple lessons-learned in training scenarios to the real world. They begin to think about multiple endings for those routine dispatches and start to ask, “What’s different this time?”
Step 10: The Debrief
Debrief in a positive manner. The old way of reading the officer the riot act, telling them everything they did wrong and putting them back into line is both destructive and counterproductive. Instead, conduct debriefing in a team-building atmosphere that includes the following components:
In addition to this team debriefing or as a part of it, review a videotape of the incident. Because articulation (having the officer explain why they did the right thing) is an important part of the training process, include it at this point. Many training facilities add report writing and even courtroom testimony to this section.
Take officers out of the scenario and, prior to debriefing, instruct them to make an immediate verbal report to their supervisor — kind of like the real world. Finally, if the officer did not complete the scenario in a satisfactory manner, provide remedial training to bring them up to a satisfactory performance level. Document this remedial training.
Go beyond merely asking your officers what they did; ask why they did it. Make sure you listen to your officers’ perceptions and reasons for responding as they did prior to telling them what you think they should have done.
Several years ago, we designed a scenario that tested officers’ ability to use their firearm to stop a threat. Two officers responded to a domestic disturbance involving two brothers fighting. Upon the officers’ arrival, one brother was straddling the other on the floor while hitting him on the head multiple times with a steel pipe. The assaultive brother refused to stop. We interpreted this scenario as a clear shoot situation, but we were shocked that less than 20 percent of the officers fired their firearms. They used a whole range of other force options. View a videotape of an example of this domestic disturbance scenario and the scenario checklist at www.policeone.com/klugvideos.html under the Reference Material pull-down menu.
When we asked them why they didn’t shoot the assaultive brother, we received numerous answers, including:
Some of their perceptions and tactical responses were very enlightening. Several ways they stopped the threat were especially interesting, including striking the assaultive brother on the back of the neck with a baton, which we thought was an innovative way to end the assault without potentially shooting the brother on the ground. This led us to ask officers in future classes what they saw and why they responded the way they did before giving our “right” answer to the scenario.
Conduct safe simulation training. Ask yourself this question before an investigator puts it to you during a formal inquiry: “What would other well-trained, experienced instructors have done to keep themselves and their officers safe in this type of training simulation?”
What’s the difference between a tragedy and negligence?
Too many repetitions of needless, preventable training injuries and death have occurred. A developing standard-of-care exists and, as a trainer, you will be held accountable.
We need to conduct decision-making scenario training, but we must do it right.
Gary J. Monreal contributed to this article. Monreal has more than 18 years of law enforcement experience in corrections, patrol, SWAT and training. As a police officer with the City of New Berlin (Wis.) Police Department, his duties include SWAT team leader, specializing in explosive entry. Monreal is an instructor-trainer and currently teaches chemical munitions, defensive tactics, firearms, TASER, vehicle contacts, high-level simulations, submachine gun and SWAT. He was instrumental in the development of the RedMan Integrated Use-of-Force Simulation Instructor Development program. Contact him at email@example.com.
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