Types of Exercises

Table Top Exercise (TTX)

A Table Top Exercise (TTX) is intended to generate discussion of various issues regarding a hypothetical, simulated emergency.  TTXs can be used to enhance general awareness, validate plans and procedures, rehearse concepts, and/or assess the types of systems needed to guide the prevention of, protection from, mitigation of, response to, and recovery from a defined incident.  Generally, TTXs are aimed at facilitating conceptual understanding, identifying strengths and areas for improvement, and/or achieving changes in perceptions.

During a TTX, players are encouraged to discuss issues in depth, collaboratively examining areas of concern and solving problems. The effectiveness of a TTX is derived from the energetic involvement of participants and their assessment of recommended revisions to current policies, procedures, and plans.

TTXs can range from basic to complex. In a basic TTX (such as a Facilitated Discussion), the scenario is presented and remains constant—it describes an emergency and brings discussion participants up to the simulated present time. Players apply their knowledge and skills to a list of problems presented by the facilitator; problems are discussed as a group; and resolution is reached and documented for later analysis.

In a more advanced TTX, play advances as players receive pre-scripted messages that alter the original scenario. A facilitator usually introduces problems one at a time in the form of a written message, simulated telephone call, videotape, or other means. Players discuss the issues raised by each problem, referencing established authorities, plans, and procedures for guidance. Player decisions are incorporated as the scenario continues to unfold.

Functional Exercise (FE) or Command Post Exercises (CPX)

FEs are designed to validate and evaluate capabilities, multiple functions and/or sub-functions, or interdependent groups of functions.  FEs are typically focused on exercising plans, policies, procedures, and staff members involved in management, direction, command, coordination, and leadership functions.

In FEs, events are projected through an exercise scenario with event updates that drive activity typically at the command and management level.  An FE is conducted in a realistic, real-time environment; however, movement of personnel and equipment is usually simulated.  FE controllers typically use a Master Scenario Events List (MSEL) to ensure participant activity remains within predefined boundaries and ensure exercise objectives are accomplished.  Simulators in a Simulation Cell (SimCell) can inject scenario elements and act as role players to simulate real events and interactions.

A CPX is a type of FE typically designed to validate and evaluate capabilities at command and management level.  They are typically conducted in a simulated Incident Command Post or Emergency Operations Center environment.

Full-Scale Exercises (FSEs)

FSEs are typically the most complex and resource-intensive type of exercise.  They may involve multiple agencies, organizations, and jurisdictions and validate many facets of preparedness. FSEs often include many players operating under cooperative systems such as the Incident Command System (ICS), Multiagency Coordination System (MACS), or Joint Information System (JIS), or some combination thereof.

In an FSE, events are projected through an exercise scenario with event updates that drive activity at the operational level.  FSEs are usually conducted in a real-time, stressful environment that is intended to mirror a real incident.  Personnel and resources may be mobilized and deployed to the scene, where actions are performed as if a real incident had occurred.  The FSE simulates reality by presenting complex and realistic problems that require critical thinking, rapid problem solving, and effective responses by trained personnel.  Throughout the duration of the exercise, many activities occur simultaneously.

Unannounced Exercise or No-Notice Exercise (NNX)

Unannounced Exercise or NNXs are typically FEs or FSEs planned without the knowledge of exercise players.  NNXs afford exercise planners the opportunity to evaluate mobilization and deployment from a “cold start”, as the exercise is unannounced and exercise players have little or no warning about the exercise.  

National Preparedness for Response Exercise Program (PREP) Exercise

The Preparedness for Response Exercise Program (PREP) is the framework utilized by government and industry for testing contingency plans of the National Response System. Developed by the federal government, it meets the minimum Oil Pollution Act of 1990 exercise requirements for government agencies; industry use of PREP is voluntary but encouraged, since it meets the exercise requirements of the four regulatory agencies. The routine testing of plans, relationships, and notifications ensures preparedness to respond. Under PREP, plans are regularly tested through notification, tabletop, equipment deployment, and government-initiated unannounced exercises.

To learn more about PREP Exercises, click here.