Disaster Demons Emergency Management Group

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Exercise Types

Post-incident critiques often confirm that experience gained during exercises was the best way to prepare agencies to respond effectively to an emergency. Exercises should be designed to engage agency members and get them working together to manage the response to a hypothetical incident. Exercises enhance knowledge of plans, allow members to improve their own performance and identify opportunities to improve capabilities to respond to real events.


Exercises are a great method to:

  • Evaluate the preparedness program

  • Identify planning and procedural deficiencies

  • Test or validate recently changed procedures or plans

  • Clarify roles and responsibilities

  • Obtain participant feedback and recommendations for program improvement

  • Measure improvement compared to performance objectives

  • Improve coordination between internal and external teams, organizations and entities

  • Validate training and education

  • Increase awareness and understanding of hazards and the potential impacts of hazards.

  • Assess the capabilities of existing resources and identify needed resources

Types of Exercises

There are different types of exercises that can be used to evaluate program plans, procedures and capabilities.

  • Walkthroughs, workshops or orientation seminars

  • Tabletop exercises

  • Functional exercises

  • Full-scale exercises

Walkthroughs, workshops and orientation seminars are basic training for agency members. They are designed to familiarize participants with emergency response, business continuity and crisis communications plans and their roles and responsibilities as defined in the plans.


Tabletop exercises are discussion-based sessions where agency members meet in an informal, classroom setting to discuss their roles during an emergency and their responses to a particular emergency situation. A facilitator guides participants through a discussion of one or more scenarios. The duration of a tabletop exercise depends on the audience, the topic being exercised and the exercise objectives. Many tabletop exercises can be conducted in a few hours, so they are cost-effective tools to validate plans and capabilities.


Functional exercises allow personnel to validate plans and readiness by performing their duties in a simulated operational environment. Activities for a functional exercise are scenario-driven, such as the failure of a critical function or a specific hazard scenario. Functional exercises are designed to exercise specific team members, procedures and resources (e.g. communications, warning, notifications and equipment set-up).



A full-scale exercise is as close to the real thing as possible. It is a lengthy exercise which takes place on location using, as much as possible, the equipment and personnel that would be called upon in a real event. Full-scale exercises are conducted by public agencies. They often include participation from local businesses.



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