Imaginary Gas Explosion Teambuilding Activity

This is potentially the most successful teambuilding and leadership exercise we have carried out! It's also super fun and it's amazing how you see improvement as people complete it again in times to come. When doing first aid, you want people who can work well together in challenging situations and be able to make quick decisions whilst under pressure. There will also be many opportunities where people need to show good leadership skills. This might be acting as the clinical lead for a foot patrol team, running a first aid post or leading a local or national first aid group. This exercise goes a long way to highlighting and testing these areas. The activity can be used in two ways. Either just to develop a group you are already familiar with or to try and spot those with particular abilities in key areas. For example, this exercise has been run in the past for a group whose leadership changed on a yearly basis (voted in each year). It allowed those already in leadership to spot those who worked well as a team and who stood up to take a leadership role and therefore might be the right people to encourage to apply for the upcoming leadership roles.

So what actually is the activity?
This exercise is based on the premise that there has been some kind of gas explosion or gas leak with many casualties inside which need to be extricated. It should be emphasised that it is just a teambuilding scenario and that we are not suggesting that anyone in a first aid environment should actually be going into this environment (remember step 1-2-3)!! But it is a fictional situation that can get the team working together well. You need to position a number of patient-actors already in the room in various positions who will be unreponsive throughout. The aim is for the team to extricate all of the people inside. Perhaps start with 8 or so casualties and 10-20 people in the team outside (you can always scale the numbers). The teams aren't expected to do any treatment, simply to extricate with a carry sheet. The catch is that there is a time limit to how long each person can be inside the 'gas explosion room' as otherwise they will also become a casualty at whatever place they are when they run out of time. So a team enters the room and perhaps you've given them one minute to be inside safely. If anyone is still within the room at 1 minute after them going in, they will have to collapse wherever they are. The other catch is that each person needs 2 mins (or a similar time) to 'recover' before going back into the room. If they go back into the room too early they will also just become a casualty. You can see that you could quite quickly have casualties piling up in the room if the team is not organised!

Only tell the team the rules of the game (i.e. the time limits and how they complete the exercise) rather than giving them any structure or assigning anyone any roles. This forces the team to organise themselves. This is where you start to see the leaders emerge in the group and the level at which the group is able to work as a team.

Picture of people using a carry sheet in training Evidently, you need someone with a watch to act as the adjudicator for the exercise and decide whether someone has ran out of time etc. It is also good to have a few people on hand to make sure that all of the moving and handling is carried out in a safe manner. The exercise should be temporarily halted if any unsafe moving and handling is spotted to ensure the safety of both the casualties and those lifting. Given that there are time limits, some of the first aiders will be tempted to speed up their carrying. You will need to actively remind them throughout the exercise to slow down to a safe and non-rushed speed. With these reminders and a few people keeping an eye out, the risks in the activity can be kept small.

Spice it up
There are lots of ways you could slightly alter this exercise to spice things up a bit. For example, you could run the scenario in the dark and make sure that the team have access to torches etc. This adds an extra difficulty that forces the team to work together even closer. Similarly, if you are confident in the group's abilities you could add distracting features such as sirens or loud noises going off in the background to make communication more difficult between the teams. Another way to test the team is to place the casualties around obstacles to made extrication more difficult (e.g. you could have someone under a desk, hidden round a corner, or slumped on a toilet).

Practical Tips:
  • Remember to allow the team to organise themselves as this is half of the challenge.
  • It is important to have a small group of people not participating in the exercise to ensure it is carried out safely.
  • Spice the exercise up using one of the examples above to test the group even further.
  • Everyone in the team taking part needs to be able to use a carry sheet safely before they can participate in this activity.

Comments: Have you tried this idea out? Let us know how it went or give us your top tips to make it work well! If you are logged in, your usename will be assigned to the comment.

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