Practice Makes Perfect

Is your organization in need of an emergency training exercise, but you don’t know where to start?  FEMA has tools to help you create and execute a realistic disaster scenario. FEMA has made available a series of tabletop exercise presentations as a tool to assist your organization’s continuity planning, preparedness and resiliency.

For those of you who have never before participated in tabletop exercise, it is a discussion-based exercise that typically begins with the reading of a narrative defining the initial scope of the disaster and ground rules for participation. Visual aids can be utilized such as a map or model of the disaster scene for participants to gather around. The map or model can show buildings, vehicles, victims and other components that may or may not be moved or altered as the exercise plays out. Discussion-based exercises are commonly used for exploration of decision-making, analysis, communication and collaboration during an emergency situation. This type of exercise is not used to test the physical deployment of resources or tactical skills such as operation of fire-fighting equipment, logistics or other action-oriented steps.

Each of the FEMA exercises can help facilitate a discussion of how your organization would plan, protect, respond and recover. The free download includes full instructions for a facilitator and a team of participants to independently execute the exercise internally.

The first two exercises made available are for a major Hurricane and rail Chemical Accident.  Both include simulated TV news videos suggesting exercise-focused local reporting of the disasters. This feature adds a sense of realism and helps to motivate interactive discussion. The exercises can take 2-4 hours from start to finish and can be customized to meet your needs.  Additional exercises are in development and FEMA welcomes feedback and suggestions on future needs.

Each exercise is formatted as a PowerPoint (.ppt) file with three mock news videos as Windows Media .wmv files, playable from any PC with Microsoft software.  To download, visit

These exercises are structured on the Tabletop Exercise Design curriculum developed by FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute, as well as other FEMA/DHS training reference materials and were developed by FEMA’s Private Sector Division advised by FEMA’s National Exercise Division.

We want to know how it goes… share your training exercise stories with us!

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