EP 45 Training and Exercises With The Blue Cell

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EP 45 Training and Exercises With The Blue Cell

Exercises and Training with Todd Manns for “The Blue Cell”

[TODD MANNS] In exercise, there has to be some level of discovery. And discovery is one of those nice words that gets away from chastising, gets us away from chastising folks, and probably lightens that anxiety a little bit. Because who doesn’t want to discover something about themselves?

[TODD DEVOE] Welcome to EM Weekly, this is your host, Todd DeVoe speaking. And it’s a beautiful, cool day here in Southern California. And I know that for the rest of the parts of the country getting snow, and believe it or not, we had a snow warning come out here for Los Angeles county. Of course, it’s in higher elevations. Down in the low lands, blue sky lives. But still, it’s kind of cool to see a snow warning for LA County. For those of you who don’t see that– you know, I’m from back East, and so, it kind of made me chuckle just a little bit. Got some people talking, so that’s good news, because with the drought and everything that comes around here, and hopefully, if we do get snow, and it’s able to get some snow pack, as we call, we’ll be able to avoid another drought coming up here, so let’s hope for that.

Today, we’re going to be talking about training and exercising and proving your outcome with expert trainer Todd Manns, and the Blue Cell Company. Now, I’m excited to announce that the Blue Cell Company is one of our new sponsors, for EM Weekly. We are really happy that this has happened with Todd and his company, the Blue Cell. We’re going to talk a little bit about training with him. So, training was one of the top three topics on a poll of “what do you want to hear about in 2018” that we took in December. And so, I started searching for a good training company, and I came across the Blue Cell, reached out to Todd to ask him if he wanted to come on the show. And then he decided he would like to advertise with us, so it’s a new relationship, and again, I’m excited. If you guys can go to the website, say hi, and just say that you heard it from here, from EM Weekly, that would be great. Just let him know what you guys think about his episode here, too. So, that’s exciting.

A couple of reasons why we chose to go with the blue cell. And one of the things I want to say is, I am dedicated to you guys that I will not bring companies or products on to EM Weekly that I haven’t looked at, or tested, or got highly recommended for and spoken to the owners, and to see how this fits in with EM Weekly. You know, again, we’re here to bring quality to you guys, so that’s just my dedication to you. And there’s three reasons why I think that Blue Cell fit that mark. One is, come on! The guy’s name is Todd. You cannot go wrong with a guy named Todd right? That being said, that’s one of the reasons. Two, his company is veteran-owned. Todd is a former marine, he is also a former police officer, and he worked as an emergency manager in Colorado. So, he has the experience to back up what he’s talking about. And three, I got some feedback from people who used them to look at some of the reviews about the Blue Cell, and it was amazing, the amount of enthusiastic recommendations that came along for the Blue Cell.

Things going on around the world. Saturday morning, we learned that the government shut down, and what does that mean? That means that they’re going to stop spending money on certain aspects. I see the government shutdown impacting areas such as Puerto Rico, Houston, the burn areas in Northern California and Central California, on the recovery side. It’s not going to really impact the states at this point, of how that looks or your local government. But for sure, there’s going to be some impact regarding the shutdown. So, what does that mean for us? That means that we’re really going to have to keep the track of our paperwork, what’s going on with it, and it’s probably going to delay– and money is getting back to those local jurisdictions. So, keep that in mind as you’re doing your work out there. Those of you who are impacted by this area, keep your heads up, and understand that it’s not the men and women of FEMA, that this is happening through. This is our politicians that have made this happen. So, I’m with you guys, and if there’s anything we can do to help, please, let us know.

There was a 6.3 earthquake in Mexico, and the rumors fast, quickly, that there were tsunamis that were going on, and that proven to be false information that went out there. But it kind of highlights the concept of, what do we have to do to do rumor control via the internet, social media. One of the guys came into my office when this earthquake went down, said that there’s video of a tsunami in Mexico, pretty bad, it’s on Facebook, and we couldn’t verify it. And he came over later, as we were looking for it, and he goes, “No, it’s false. It was a bunk video.” Again, he’s a 30-something year veteran of emergency response, so all of us can get hooked up into seeing that and believing in it. So, we really have to do a good job, as emergency managers, to vet this information through good sources, through proper channels and good sources, right? Don’t take just any source, as far as what it is. One of the things that we try to do before I post anything up on our Facebook, and also on Twitter– I guess all social media, and including our website, is we try to vet it first, before we post it. If I can’t get a couple of different sources that are saying the same thing I’m not going to post it.

But still, if you guys ever see anything posted that looks hinky to us, please, let us know right away. Again, we’re sourcing these things, we can get caught in the moment as well. So, feel free to reach out to us and say, “Hey, this is a fact you might want to check here, there’s some different sources for it.” I would be happy. And again, we’re building this community here. Normally, obviously, we’re not trying to break news, that’s not what we’re doing here. We’re just trying to find a place where we can collect news and get it all together for you all to see, and different sources that are out there. So, that’s what our goal is. So yeah, that’s what happened here during this last week. Let’s listen to Todd Manns and the Blue Cell and take some ideas on how we can improve training.

[TODD DEVOE] Todd, welcome to EM Weekly.

[TODD MANNS] Hey, thanks, thanks a lot for having me.

[TODD DEVOE] No problem. So, Todd, tell me a little bit about yourself, and then how you got into emergency management. And then you might as well go right into what Blue Cell is, and how that product can help emergency managers across the country and the world.

[TODD MANNS] Sure. You know, I think, as I travel around the country training, I always kind of ask that same question. And you know, for many of us, it was one of those things in the post-9/11 era. I thought I was maybe done, in terms of working on the public safety side. I had already previously done that, and then done some time in the Marine Core, done some time as a police officer, and was actually in a completely different business – actually, a shooting business -, in the late 90’s. And part of that was working with firearm simulation and developing scenarios.

And when 9/11 happened, there was a lot of training that popped up here in the Denver Metro area, and I actually went to an ICS course, to try to think about how to be a better exercise designer. Through that process, I ended up teaching a lot of incident command here in the Denver Metro area, and met the fire chief, who became a very good friend of mine. And he said, “Hey, I’ve got something you can help me with.” That’s how my emergency management career really began, very, very much part-time for a small fire district in Colorado. And that led into a lot of the things that I do today, with regard to the consulting firm, the Blue Cell.

[TODD DEVOE] Tell me what Blue Cell is, how you guys got started, and what services you guys offer.

[TODD MANNS] So, you know, literally, in 2010, I was doing a lot of teaching; teaching really for the state. And that was starting to expand– and that teaching really encompasses incident command system training. And roughly enough, 8 years later, that’s still our bread and butter. But, over that time span, I got invited to a neighboring state, and that turned into going to a couple of neighboring states, and next thing I know, I’m literally teaching in about 15 states, and formalized that process into, today, what is the Blue Cell and the Blue Cell Companies. In 2012, we actually purchased Command School TTX, out of Lancaster, PA. They had a great reputation going back, really, to the late 1980’s, if you can believe that.

And so, through expansion, we just continued to add to that repertoire what we did, got into a lot of the emergency management training, incident, position-specific training, and even some (inaudible) training has dropped into our repertoire, what we do on the training side. The intent was to really be an exercise company, but we started out as a training company. Exercise, though, in the last four years, has really taken off for us. And it takes us into the product lines that we have today.

[TODD DEVOE] In your philosophy, just because you said that. What’s the difference between really training and exercises?

[TODD MANNS] It’s kind of well documented, you know, from certainly the official veterans that are out there. But for me, personally, training is that opportunity to try to understand what you’re doing. And exercise is the opportunity to practice that and see if you’re doing it right. Growing up in the marine core, they have a very specific philosophy about those things, and interestingly enough, I probably still use a lot of those philosophies today. And so, in the classroom setting, even with the (inaudible) learning concept, where we do need to do some hands-on to get the point across, it’s not the same thing as exercise. Because in exercise, you know, that’s kind of that opportunity to explore and probably make mistakes, the things that we learn the most, obviously, being mistakes. Naturally, the biggest difference that I see.

[TODD DEVOE] Right. I think that’s one of the things that people forget, too. It’s that when they go in to do exercises, that is the practical application of what you’ve learned, basically, in the classroom. You kind of made a point there of saying that, during your exercise time, that you learn more from your mistakes. And I see that, sometimes, people are afraid to allow their command staff to see a failure in exercises, and they tend to make them really vanilla and easy to go through, and kind of boring, and you don’t get much out of them. How do you get somebody through to an exercise, to where they’re actually learning something and making it a little bit more challenging for everybody in the system?

[TODD MANNS] Well, I think the key for us, especially as a contract outfit, it’s to have that conversation upfront with our customer. And I agree. I think the grand side of the way things are driven, today, sometimes kind of puts us in that situation where maybe the priority is not, actually, to make and see mistakes. I think there is a way to appropriately do that, and generally, what we do at the Blue Cell, is we’ll have that kind of frank conversation with our customer. And even though we might have a master scenario event list, that we’re following, that does not mean that we should not have the ability to deviate from that on exercise day to really see something specifically or get the outcome that we’re looking for. You know, certainly, in exercise, we should be testing a plan. And sometimes, of course, we don’t have a plan. We do a lot of exercises along those lines. But I think, in the end, is that environment is constructed and communicated appropriately. I’ve really not seen a lot of folks who get terribly upset if they know that the point of the exercise is to really try to see where our potential gaps and deficiencies are, and also, to see what we’re doing well and validate some things, you know, that we previously put in place, in terms of equipment and different plans, and that type of thing.

[TODD DEVOE] The old adage is, every plan doesn’t survive first contact. And I think that when you do a proper exercise, that you get to see your plan in a controlled setting, be challenged a little bit by that exercise, I think that’s– as an emergency manager, I think that’s an exciting time, when we can really test, again, the plan. And whenever we do exercises, I always stress that we’re not grading people or testing people. We’re testing the plan, and we’re testing what our concepts and ideas are. Do you agree with that, or am I off-base?

The Blue Cell Todd Manns[TODD MANNS] No, I agree 100%. And I tell you, one of the buzzwords that we like to use internally and we try to share with our customers is, in exercise, there has to be some level of discovery. And discovery is one of those nice words that gets us away from testing, gets us away from testing folks, and probably, lightens that anxiety a little bit. Because who doesn’t want to discover something about themselves?


[TODD MANNS] Their agency, their equipment, their plan? Because the alternative is to discover it in the midst of the real thing.


[TODD MANNS] And I tell you, that’s not fair. That’s simply not fair to the citizens who expect us to, at least, have some of these things figured out. So, you know, when the alternative is to only do discovery in the real thing, and that can end very badly, it does make the idea of taking the opportunity and exercise for discovery a lot of palatable, I think.

[TODD DEVOE] What are the advantages of hiring a consulting firm like yours to come in and do an exercise, than having the exercise designed and administered in-house?

[TODD MANNS] Well, I think, you know, there’s pros and cons on both sides of that. And we’ve actually been in situation where we’ve talked customers out of hiring us, because it does work, and potentially, can work for them to do it themselves, or maybe just to get a little bit of guidance. For us, we did about 65 exercises last year, to include six full scales, in 18 different states. And so, the advantage, if any, we can do things faster, because we do it all the time. And also, we can bring in ideas that are outside of that immediate circle of influence for a particular jurisdiction. We definitely try to share as many ideas as we can from one exercise to the next, including things that we learn along the way, about how to do that better. So, if anything, it probably does come down to when you bring in any consulting firm that’s doing a high volume of work. They’re just going to be a little bit faster at it, and maybe have a few shortcuts, and maybe have a few ideas that the local jurisdiction, that’s maybe doing a full-scale every three years, you know, just doesn’t have that practice opportunity in exercise; you know, the facilitation of the exercise itself.

[TODD DEVOE] One of the things I’m excited about when we do exercises, especially when we’re doing large scale ones, like, countywide, and we have contractors and stuff come in; I love the idea of collaboration that you can get from that, because they’re seeing it from the outside, not the inside. They’re also, a group like Blue Cell, you’re bringing in all those other lessons that you’ve learned from the same mistakes, right? That people made across the country. And you can say, “Hey, look, this is what we learned from here as well, try doing this a little bit differently,” and I think you can come with a wider eye, a broader perspective, and fresh ideas that come into an area, than somebody who has been working in the same location, the same plan, the same time. The other thing, too, as a small agency, as an emergency manager, if you’re creating the exercise, you can’t really test yourself, being in your role in that event as well, when you can when you have somebody from the outside helping you create that program. That’s my take on it.

[TODD MANNS] Yeah, we have a number of customers that specifically bring us in, so that the emergency managers and those gold champions in that jurisdiction, medium and small jurisdictions. So, they get the opportunity to participate in the exercise; and to participate in the exercise fairly, without true insight as to exactly what’s going to happen, when, and that type of thing. And so, we kind of call that exercise “support”, in some ways. And we have, basically, a team that can come in and provide that particular service. But we certainly let the customer tailor how much of that service they may or may not want. The idea of folks having an idea of what’s going to happen, I think that’s good. I think that’s really good. But I don’t think they should know every single thing that’s going to happen, because we just don’t get a clear picture, or as clear a picture as we possibly could, as to where the potential challenges might be.

[TODD DEVOE] I participated in a FEMA-graded exercise for the nuclear powerplant in Orange County, and it was amazing when they called the exercise “meltdown of the plant.” Of how real it felt when you were able to get into the role of the emergency manager, instead of being the guy giving out the (inaudible) and whatnot. It was amazing that you could actually get into that and actually feel and work it, you know? So, that’s the experience that I had with that. What are some of the challenges that you guys have come across with training and exercises throughout the country?

[TODD DEVOE] What are some of the challenges that you guys have come across with training and exercises throughout the country?

[TODD MANNS] Well, the biggest one that I hear, and I hear it consistently, and it really does Segway into our new product line, it is having the time to deal with all the things that we now have emergency managers dealing with. And so, whether it’s the training aspect, or even setting up training. Doing an exercise, some of the other things that go along with preparedness, and then certainly, if you’ve had a disaster, you may be dealing with the aftermath of that, ongoing. We created TTX Vault to really give some tools and some speed, or some time back, to emergency managers. It developed internally, as conversations with my staff and with the amount of work that we were doing. We had disks and hard drives full of information, and when we acquired a command school, we got a whole ton of information going back into the 1990’s. We really started to pursue the idea of creating canned exercises. In this case, table-tops to start with, that have all of those essential elements put together.

Subsequently, we have another course that we do call “advance planning concepts,” that’s actually in the DHS state and federal catalogue. We have created a fake website just for that course, called Chelsea County USA. And so, we brought together the concepts of, you’ve got a canned tabletop, on a specific topic. You still have to probably go in and edit it. You may want to edit it, you know, significantly. Or you could just use the active shooter, let’s say, as an example, that’s set in our Chelsea County online environment. We now packaged that, so that you get both of those at a price that I would say is probably hard to believe. When you really think about how much time it takes to make sure all of the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed, to get a solid, map-approved, (inaudible) consistent exercise, and get it out to your folks. The other thing that happens, consequently, was that the folks in the hospital realm started to have some of their own requirements, and some of the other like, long-term care facilities, that type of thing. A lot of your listeners will be, probably, very familiar with that call that comes from the long-term care facility that says, “I’ve got to do an exercise. In fact, I’ve got to do two; a full-scale and a table-top. And I’ve got to do it this school year.” Of course, they turn to their emergency manager, right?


[TODD MANNS] To get that assistance. What we’ve done is we’ve created a whole package just for that discipline. And once we got rolling with that, we decided to put a whole bunch more available on our website. We’ve got about 65 exercises, canned on TTX Vault, as of today.

[TODD DEVOE] That’s awesome, actually, because you’re always looking for good quality exercise ideas and resources that go along with them as well. So, speaking of that, what resources do you get? So, if I decided today I’m going to buy– let’s stay with the active shooter. I’m going to buy the active shooter training exercise, what do I get with that?

[TODD MANNS] We are literally sending out a disk, still. And we’re finding that that still works. With a single table-top, you get about 400 files. So, just on the exercise side of it, you get a situation manual that has a scenario in it, you get some identified core capabilities, about four of them; an exercise evaluation guide for each of those identified core capabilities. A (inaudible) plant template, a PowerPoint, comes along with that. And you have two versions of that. Over the years, we also collected ICS forms, and ideas, and checklists. And so, we give you a whole folder of that information. And then, in the event that you want to use our Chelsea County USA environment, which comes along with that package, we have all of the plans for that fake county. So, there’s about 18 plans, a set of maps. It’s really a wrap of (inaudible), Colorado, where we’re based. We’ve changed some of the names, and we have a full resource list there. So, the FEMA-type resources. So, if you are picking out a character from our Chelsea County environment, and it’s a leader, on an engine, we have three additional names, so you can do a resource management level game, everything that would come with a type 1 or type 2 engine, that’s the number of personnel that you get.

In addition to, of course, fire, we have law enforcement resources, public works resources, we have our hospital resources. About 700 characters, alone, in just the Chelsea County piece of the environment. We understand that folks may want to use their own jurisdiction, but we have a number of customers that actually like to rerun the scenario, as if they’ve gone somewhere else. Which is probably reality, right? With the disaster year that we had, there were folks going all over the world, working on disasters. So, through (inaudible), or incident management teams, certainly, not immune that we may be leaving our jurisdiction, and that’s always a great practice opportunity, to see how you do the exercise if you were somewhere else. So, all of that comes on the single scenario. We packaged those up into five scenario packages, so with a package of five, obviously, you get five versions of that on five different topics.

[TODD DEVOE] One of the things, you know, I struggled with before is coming up with all the pieces, you know? If you can start there, that’s going to save you so much time and energy into putting that exercise on, and I think it’s a quality thing that you guys can do for those jurisdictions.

[TODD MANNS] That’s literally what we’ve kind of said. It’s become out unofficial motto on the site. What is your time worth as an emergency manager? What is your time worth? What else could you be working on? If you weren’t so tied up, maybe trying to put together an exercise. And we know that there’s a lot of pressure to do, you know, a lot of exercises, or it’s something that just happened. That’s when you start to get, maybe, that pressure from your agency administrator. The other thing that we do is we certainly follow trends. So, we do have some packages that are now available for churches and places of worship; we have a whole new series that is going to come out based on shopping centers and arenas. And that’s really just grabbing things out of the headlines, that are happening, because those are the calls that we’re getting at our office, and some of the things that folks are trying to address.

[TODD DEVOE] Back to the concept here of some of the challenges for emergency managers. If somebody wanted just to use you guys for ideas and for– maybe not a full exercise, but like, an exercise support, how does that work?

[TODD MANNS] That’s pretty simple. We just basically contract that. You call our office, and I can assign one of my (inaudible) to talk to you about it. Or, a lot of times, I’m taking those calls directly, because we are going to be customizing that. In that case, it’s really about having enough people, right? To run the exercise. So, a typical support package would include us bringing in accountability folks, so we can keep track of everybody that’s there. We do have the ability to bring in moulage artists, if that’s part of the exercise. And then, separate evaluators and controllers to play those roles. We do have a tremendous amount of equipment that we just accumulated over the years. So, we can go everywhere from bringing in phone systems, if needed. Certainly radios, and radio cassettes, if needed. Vests, if folks need vests; whether that’s on the exercise side or just as the role that they’re playing.

So, the idea behind that support package is really to give you the horse power and the man power to effectively conduct an exercise. That’s probably at the drill function and full-scale level that we’re talking. But then, it does free up folks to participate, or to play their role, or to be a coach, or to sit with the agency administrator and answer questions, because all those things, you know, can become important to the emergency manager, who’s probably (inaudible) the whole thing, in some level.

[TODD DEVOE] Right. What is the frequently asked question that you guys get from people who are looking to the contract?

[TODD MANNS] Well, it obviously starts with price, right? That would be the most– that’s usually where we start. But outside of price… just to touch on price for a second. We use kind of a volume discount concept, or we kind of try to push our price down as far as we can, because we just do so much work and so much volume. But outside of price, the biggest concern and the biggest question that I would consistently hear from emergency managers would really be centered around what is going to be kind of the outcome of the exercise. And really trying to zero in on what is going to be that end state? I’m trying to ask what they think it is, but many times, they’re asking me what I think it might be or should be. Because some of the anxiety and concern, I think that a lot of folks have, whether it’s an emergency manager or even some of the other disciplines, is how well are they going to do?

And so, that really leads to, what is the outcome that you’re really looking for? What is really the goal of the exercise? And believe it or not, as much as I’m asking my customers, I think sometimes they’re listening to that information from me, and what has gone on in other places. And it’s just been interesting to kind of watch that evolution of how that becomes a pretty pertinent question after the pricing.

[TODD DEVOE] So, do you recommend an emergency managing team, for whatever jurisdiction, to sit down and kind of brainstorm of what they want to see being tested before they contact you? Or is that something that you work out with them? Because that seems to be one of those questions, I wonder if there’s a way to get more, before you make that decision to– (inaudible) talk to the emergency manager of going into an exercise. That should be something they think of first, or is that something that you can really help them out with?

[TODD MANNS] Usually, they’ve had some conversations and they have some idea. Because they may not even be in a contract situation yet. So, at that point, it’s a consulting job, right? And we’re really just trying to share whatever we can to get the customer to where they really understand what it is they’re asking us to do, and what, you know, we’re kind of managing those expectations, and if they would understand, and have a really good idea of where they want to think ahead, I would say that active shooter exercises, which are, by far, the biggest call that we get, we really have to root through, what is it that we’re doing? Are we doing an exercise, or are we doing an exhibition? And that will be different.

[TODD DEVOE] Right, right.

[TODD MANNS] Between the two. And so, that’s a frank conversation that we try to have, and we have it upfront, and try to make sure that, is it really something that we’re trying to look at it and improve plans and procedures and that type of thing? Or is it because something happened on TV, and the mayor, or the county commission, has said, “You’re going to do an exercise this year, and we want to watch.” So, that is the trickiest piece of it, and that would be the topic that, obviously, right now, we see that as a challenge. But in some of the other traditional exercises, too, we can see that as a potential issue. Or folks that had a bad experience previously, with the previous exercise. Sometimes, we’re trying to overcome that, and it’s a managing expectations type thing that we’re trying to do.

[TODD DEVOE] I’ve been involved in a few exercises, where the guys in the field feel they get nothing out of it, and I know it tends to be that we’re testing the EOC a lot, and we’re testing the command staff. But the line guys don’t seem to get much out of that exercise. What do you do to alleviate that issue with the line guys?

[TODD MANNS] I think, a lot of times, that’s potentially a design challenge. And so, if we’re doing complex exercises where we’re trying to link various levels of what people are going to do, generally, what we would do is, really design and exercise within the exercise, and deal with it just like an incident within an incident. So, manage (inaudible) and from an objective perspective, where we’re kind of breaking that into two pieces, or three pieces, and then trying to connect it. I know, as a former SWAT officer, what that used to feel like, to be called to the big exercise, and then sit for eight hours. That’s a really good way to get SWAT guys upset.

So, you have to really look at it from that design perspective and try to fit activities together that are not only realistic, but it’s so that those folks get something out of it, because they’re just not going to want to come back if that isn’t accomplished. And so, I think there’s ways to get creative with that, and kind of get down into almost the drill mode with some of those kinds of specific disciplines. And then, part of it is, maybe, they are part of the exercise all day long. That they come in and do their piece, you do a hot wash with them, get their paperwork and cut them loose, opposed to trying to keep them busy for six, or eight, or ten hours, which is very, very difficult for tactical elements that are out there.

[TODD DEVOE] Right. This is a tough question for you, because I know that they’re all probably pretty special to you. But what’s your favorite exercise to administrate?

[TODD MANNS] Probably a functional exercise. With functional, opposed to– you know, at full scale, there’s a lot of stress, and we’re spending a lot of money, and there’s a lot that goes into it. And drill, they’re fun, there’s no question. But at the functional exercise level, we get to really find out what those decision making, and leadership pieces look like, without necessarily moving anything out in the field. And so, we are finding that we can get very, very creative at that level, and our experience that we bring in helps, in that creativity. But we can certainly get things moving, and moving in directions, or even change direction, in functional exercise. I think it’s much easier to do that at the functional exercise level, and that’s the one that I really just have the most fun with.

[TODD DEVOE] Have you ever had to do like, a timeout restart, (inaudible) exercises that you’ve done, where people are just so far off the rails that they are not getting anything out of it?

[TODD MANNS] Absolutely. And it doesn’t happen very often, and it’s pretty apparent when that needs to happen, and you need to do a restart. And you can’t make that decision very lightly, I think that’s a call that has to be made in real time. But I certainly have seen it happen, and I think it is better to do that when needed, then to just kind of let it play out. It’s kind of like a scrimmage in sports, that just isn’t going well. The coach generally it’s not going to just let it go terribly for three hours, and then, “Ok, let’s just forget about it and let’s talk about it tomorrow.” Usually, we stop, and we talk about it, make adjustments, and I think that’s important in exercise, when needed. I wouldn’t say it happens a lot, but we certainly have experienced it.

[TODD DEVOE] How can somebody get in touch with you, if they’re interested? How can they find you?

[TODD MANNS] So, the best way to find us it at our website, which is www.thebluecell.com. And we really designed that as, what we’re calling a portal, because it opens up the world of Blue Cell and all the things that we have going on. The most (inaudible) things, certainly, are links to TTXVault.com, which is a separate site. And then, all of our social media runs right across the top. So, we are on Facebook, and Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, we have a YouTube page, we have a Pinterest page– we don’t do much with that at the moment, but I’m trying to change that. We do stay involved in social media, we try to put as much stuff out there, but also, on our website, you’re going to find resources that are free to download. So, we try to share as much of that as possible through thebluecell.com. The other question that I get, and I hope it’s ok to share this.


[TODD MANNS] Where did we come up with the name, The Blue Cell.

[TODD DEVOE] That was going to be my next question.

[TODD MANNS] Was that going to be your next question?


[TODD MANNS] Great Todd, thanks a lot. We were teaching a 300 class, and we were down, I think, at Fort Carson, which is a big army post in Colorado. And we had the (inaudible) commander, actually, in the class. And the (inaudible) commander hadn’t really said a word all week. And towards the end of the week – and this is before we had started the formal company as we know it today -, the (inaudible) commander said, “Hey, if you ever start a company, you should call it ‘The Blue Cell’, because in the military, we kind of use the color blue related to planning and those types of functions, and we kind of operate in cells.”

And so, it was probably a year later that we actually made that step and started TheBlueCell.com. And I actually got a Christmas card that year, from the (inaudible) commander, who had moved on to another post, and he wrote, “I see that you took my advice, please send all revenues related to that name to this address in Germany.” And that’s how we got the name The Blue Cell. And I wish I could take credit for it, but it sure has serviced well for the eight years that we’ve been using it.

[TODD DEVOE] That’s an awesome story, actually. That is a great story. Ok, so here comes the toughest question of the day for you. What book or publication do you recommend to somebody who is in emergency management and leadership, and specifically thinking about exercises and stuff like that. What book do you recommend them to read?

[TODD MANNS] Well, there’s two. Can I give you two?

[TODD DEVOE] Sure. You can give me as many as you want.

[TODD MANNS] Ok. So, “The Powell Principles: The 24 Lessons from Colin Powell,” that is just a quick, great read. And we use that, the principles themselves, to try to run the company, and we certainly talk about it quite a bit in our leadership and decision-making workshop, that we created. So, I’m certainly married to the idea of that book. The other one is a book called “Managing the Unexpected,” which is actually a business book, by Karl Weick and Kathleen Sutcliffe. And it is a really good, critical thinking book. And I think that is one of the essential elements that every emergency manager needs to have. As a consequence manager and as a planner, your ability to critically think becomes important. And so, in this book, “Managing the Unexpected,” it goes through some great examples, and it really talks about how do we think about these things, and how do we approach things to really get to a pint where maybe something’s happening that we weren’t necessarily thinking it was going to happen, but we still have to manage it. I think that’s emergency management in a nutshell.

[TODD DEVOE] Oh yeah, for sure.

[TODD MANNS] That’s kind of what happens in a regular basis. So, those would be my two go-to recommendations in terms of books to read.

[TODD DEVOE] Well, Todd, thank you so much for being here with me today. Thank you for having faith in EM Weekly and joining the family. I really appreciate having you here in both aspects.

[TODD MANNS] Thank you so much, it was a pleasure, and maybe we’ll talk to you again sometime.


LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/company/2022034/

Website:  http://www.thebluecell.com

Twitter:  @TheBlueCell ‏

Facebook:   @thebluecell

Email:     Toddmanns@thebluecell.com

Phone:  1-800-866-0840


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Website:  http://www.thebluecell.com

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1 thought on “EP 45 Training and Exercises With The Blue Cell”

  1. I do believe firmly in the content of this podcast. Being in the military and having been afforded the opportunity to have outside contracted training has proven to be a true benefit.

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