Austin, TX – When Mark Nicola first heard about the Red Ball Drills — and long before he was actually executing Red Ball Drills on a full-time basis — he admits that he didn’t fully understand everything behind the emerging process. He wanted to see it live in person before feeling he could really embrace it.
“Because I couldn’t get my head fully around it at first, I began to challenge how unique or revolutionary this could really be, particularly in a very slow to change industry like safety and security”, says Nicola, “Until I saw the first one……..”
Understanding the Red Ball “Difference”
Nicola, who joined Red Ball Drills in April as the Vice President of Operations & Training, got what he asked for, and more, when he watched and participated in a live drill during a major NHL game earlier this year.
“The whole approach, and in particular watching the exercise underway with a packed house, was the moment I realized just how different and powerful this approach was on client policy, procedures, and true ‘on the ground’ assessment.”
“Whether the drill focus was on active shooter, spectator violence, or even a loss of power, that’s when it really clicked for me”, Nicola observes, “Even with decades of operational security and management experience, I saw the vast advantages of this approach, and knew I wanted to be a part of it.”
Nicola described that first arena trip as he watched the security guard force, the people at the gates, managers in the command center, and “everyone in the chain” react or respond while the live drill progressed throughout the game.
“Then we went to the people above them, presented the red ball, and would immediately get their buy-in — because this process leads to safer patrons and more secure employees.” A few weeks later Nicola saw the adaptability of the drills to different environments and organizations. “We were working for a major consumer gaming tournament – much different type of event, different protocols, with higher levels of volunteer and part-time workers – yet the scenarios really worked, helping them carefully walk through the process in their heads, and improve preparation and process for their needs.”
Beyond “Run, Hide, Fight”
One of Mark’s concerns initially was the entrenched nature of “Run, Hide, Fight” drills and its’ variations being so widespread over decades past. Yet he had also felt and seen the frustration with “Run, Hide, Fight” alone, for the simple reason it’s response training for an event — not a preparedness program like Red Ball.
“The growing interest in a new approach is because some security professionals and safety clients have been seeking something newer and more focused for some time. I personally was leaving that old RHF mentality – too many things can go wrong with simulations, rubber bullets and trauma, or even the situation recently where the drill wasn’t communicated in advance, and could’ve been a disaster.”
For Nicola, after five months in his post, and dozens of Red Ball Drills later, the confidence in this revolutionary approach has only grown.
“When I hear expressions like I have — everything from ‘I’ll never run a tabletop exercise again’ to ‘We’ve been waiting for something like this for a long time’ — then I feel this may be the new standard, and definitely a major step up from the currently available safety preparation and crisis management exercises.”