The first part of the Master Exercise Practitioner Program is FEMA’s week long Discussion-Based Exercise Design and Evaluation (E132) class. This course is designed for emergency management exercise staff to acquire fundamental knowledge and skills necessary to develop, conduct, evaluate and follow-up discussion-based exercise activities, including orientation seminars and tabletop exercises. The content addresses the fundamental requirements of an overall exercise program and its components. A special emphasis is placed on the evaluation process and the development of sound evaluation tools to assist evaluation staff. Participants are challenged to develop, conduct and evaluate orientations and tabletop exercises during the conduct of the course through the use of proficiency demonstrations.
After a false start in October 2013, our members were able to attend the January 2014 session of the class, held at the Colorado State Emergency Operations Center in Centennial.
Class participants were responsible for developing and delivering a tabletop exercise that simulated an incident and asked participants, usually policy level individuals, including division commanders, department leaders and elected officials, to respond to the situation as they normally would, following existing policy documents and standard operating procedures as the incident unfolds.
The goal of the class is to deliver a discussion based simulation that would allow participants to identify gaps and weaknesses in the existing plans. The results of the tabletop are captured and documented, serving as the first step in a much longer exercise process.
The FEMA instructors broke the class into four groups of 17 students each, working with each group individually to identify needs, develop the tabletop exercise and deliver it to one of the other groups. Hot washes and debriefings were held to evaluate the exercises and their results as a means of better understanding what worked and what needed to be improved.
At the conclusion of the class the students were given a homework assignment to develop and execute an HSEEP compliant discussion based tabletop exercise for their home agencies.