Announcement Date: June 6, 1995




Business Challenge

What police, fire-fighters and EMTs do in their everyday job, the rest of us consider a crisis.
What happens when these professionals face a once-in-a-lifetime catastrophe?
Without exercising their emergency plans, they would freak out like the rest of us.
But building exercises to test emergency plans is difficult, sometimes life-threatening, work. Planning the exercise itself is difficult and error prone.
We created Cliffside Software to develop the world’s first comprehensive exercise planning tool.







Plan AHEAD: All Hazard Exercise Administration and development, a comprehensive software application to plan exercises to test emergency plans.  
Used by over 300 counties, four FEMA regions, and countless government and private corporations, Plan AHEAD was the first application to capture, manage and build exercise information.
  • ran on IBM-PCs with Windows 3.1 O/S (the common environment for most government agencies at the time)
  • presented a familiar user interface (a tabbed-notebook, similar to what exercise planners used in the real world)
  • built exercises up from individual components (objectives, narratives, messages) which could be shared across agencies and across exercises
  • created a unique “shuttle” system, enabling collaboration across government “sneaker networks” 




We used a sophisticated user-centered-design approach:
  • The entire Cliffside team trained with emergency exercise planners to learn the ropes
  • We collected dozens of emergency exercise plans from around the world, analyzing them for commonalities
  • We captured government agency standards for crafting objectives, after-action reports for HAZMAT, Nuclear, aircraft and natural disasters
  • We engaged with exercise planners all along the development cycle to confirm we were on the right track




My Contribution

As VP of Operations, I was responsible for:
  • Hiring and firing
  • Database design and normalization
  • User research
  • Directing the work of 10+ employees
  • Software development processes, including QA, builds and business continuity