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Guidelines for Transportation Emergency Training Exercises 4.0 DISCUSSION-BASED EXERCISES This section describes the process that can be used by transportation agencies to develop the discussion-based exercises specified in the progressive exercise program, concentrating on the table- top exercise. Section 5 presents this process for operations-based exercises. Whether conducted for discussion-based or operations-based exercises, the exercise planning process involves considerable coordination within the transportation agency and among potential par- ticipating agencies and officials. The planning process includes convening a planning team, setting program management timelines, conducting planning conferences, identifying exercise design objec- tives, developing the scenario and documentation, assigning logistical tasks, managing the exercise, and identifying the evaluation methodology. OVERVIEW Although seminars, workshops, and games are types of discussion-based exercises, the most com- monly used discussion-based exercise in transportation is the tabletop. In the transportation envi- ronment, a tabletop exercise is typically a 4- to 8-hour facilitated discussion centered on an incident scenario. The scenario unfolds in discrete time periods (e.g., over 24 hours from incident detection Tabletops require and verification through notification, initial response, dispatch and mobilization of resources, evacu- a set of ation and treatment of the injured, damage assessment and repair, stabilization of the scene, and coordinated gradual restoration of service). planning activities to be The basic outline of events and response under way during each time period is portrayed in short brief- successfully ings (using PowerPoint presentations, photographs, video clips, or other means of communication). At conducted and the end of each briefing, a caucus period provides participants with the opportunity to discuss the issues evaluated. associated with responding to the scenario presented. In addition to the briefings, a situation manual (sometimes called a player's handbook) is provided that corresponds with the briefings and provides additional details about the incident and response. To facilitate discussion, participants are divided into small groups by functional area. Participants are encouraged to periodically migrate between groups to foster communication. At the conclusion of each caucus session, a spokesperson from each group will report back to all attendees about what was discussed. After the tabletop is complete, a series of evaluation activities will be performed to assess perfor- mance and identify areas of improvement. First, a debrief is performed among participants to gather their assessments regarding the tabletop. Then, an AAR will be developed to document the tabletop, and an improvement plan will be prepared to integrate recommendations into the transportation agency emergency planning, training, and exercise programs. EXERCISE PLANNING TEAM The exercise planning team is responsible for designing, developing, conducting, and evaluating all aspects of transportation emergency exercises. The planning team determines exercise design objec- tives; tailors the scenario to transportation and jurisdictional needs; and develops documents used in simulation, control, and exercise evaluation. The exercise planning team for discussion-based exercises is typically smaller than the team needed for operations-based exercises. As explained in Section 3 of this report, in the transportation environ- ment, one to three persons can typically organize a tabletop exercise or game when supported by con- sultants and members of an ad hoc team, committee, or task force assembled with local responders. The exercise planning team is often managed by a lead exercise planner (also referred to as the exer- cise director, exercise planning team leader, or point of contact). The team should be a manageable 33