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A core pillar of the Disaster Preparedness Program (DPP) is designing and implementing exercises. Exercises play a vital role in preparedness by enabling NOAA and the National Ocean Service (NOS) to test and validate plans and capabilities and identify and address gaps and areas for improvement. The DPP leads an exercise program to improve NOS’s preparedness posture and emphasize the value of the exercise cycle. Exercises provide a low-risk environment for NOS to test capabilities and familiarize personnel with roles and responsibilities they may have during an emergency or disaster.

Based on the principles of the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP), the DPP develops and executes exercises in two main categories: discussion-based and operation-based. 

People in brightly colored vests sitting in a conference room watching a speaker.
Image credit: NOAA.

Discussion-based exercises are designed to familiarize participants with plans, policies, procedures, and/or agreements that are already in place. Sometimes discussion-based exercises can be used to develop an agency’s plans, policies, procedures, and/or agreements as well. Discussion-based exercises include:

  • Seminar: an informal discussion-based exercise led by a presenter or facilitator, used to teach or orient participants.
  • Workshop: a formal discussion-based exercise led by a presenter or facilitator, used to build or achieve a product.
  • Tabletop Exercise (TTX): an informal group discussion centered on an actual or hypothetical situation.
  • Game: a simulation of operations that often involves two or more teams, usually in a competitive environment, using rules, data, and procedures designed to depict an actual or hypothetical situation.

Operation-based exercises, on the other hand, are designed to validate plans, policies, agreements, and procedures. They also are used to clarify roles and responsibilities and identify resource gaps. Operation-based exercises include:

  • Drill: a supervised activity that tests a specific operation or function of a single agency.
  • Functional Exercise: a single or multi-agency activity designed to evaluate capabilities and multiple functions using simulated response.
  • Full-Scale Exercise: high-stress, multi-agency, a multi-jurisdictional activity involving the actual deployment of resources in a coordinated response, as if a real incident occurred.

The type of exercise designed is dependent on what functions need to be tested and what level of player interaction is needed to meet that goal. The DPP believes that choosing the correct type for the purpose and goal of your exercise is vital to its success. It will also help determine the roles that are needed to be filled to effectively execute your exercise. 

The DPP develops and executes various exercises and believes that the continual cycle of planning, training, and exercising helps keep our responders in a constant state of readiness.

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Last updated Sunday, January 10, 2021 5:51pm PST