Exercises - TEMA

Welcome to the Exercise page for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.  

The goal of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency Exercise Program is to support emergency operations by establishing a standard of exercise conduct and program goals to identify and address needs and areas for improvement.  Regularly exercising our systems, plans, and training allows for moments of discovery and opportunity to grow.  In order to best achieve that growth, we are implementing the following objectives:

·        Identify exercise requirements

·        Support Local and requesting State Governments’ exercise programs

·        Document all After Action Reports and Corrective Action  Program

·        Ensure Coordination and Communication among Local, State, Partners

·        Provide a system, including an organization, information, and forms necessary to coordinate the design, conduct,

         and evaluation of emergency management exercises

·        Provide support to senior leadership’s strategic guidance and plans

·        Promote professionalism in the emergency management community

Exercises play a vital role in community preparedness and resilience by enabling whole community stakeholders to test and validate plans and capabilities, and identify both capability gaps and areas for improvement. A well-designed exercise provides a low-risk environment to test capabilities, familiarize personnel with roles and responsibilities, and foster meaningful interaction and communication across organizations. Exercises bring together and strengthen the whole community in its efforts to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from all hazards. Overall, exercises are cost-effective and useful tools that help the nation practice and refine our collective capacity to achieve the core capabilities in the National Preparedness Goal.

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency is committed to improving the preparedness and resilience of the whole community in accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) 58-2-106(b)(l)(G), that directs TEMA to, “establish guidelines and schedules for exercises that evaluate the ability of the state and its political subdivisions to respond to minor, major, and catastrophic disasters and support local emergency management agencies.”

In 2013 TEMA conducted a Hazard and Risk Analysis to update the State of Tennessee Hazard Mitigation Plan. Those hazards posing the greatest threat to life safety, property and economic activity within the state are the Hazards of Prime Concern. The State of Tennessee Hazard Mitigation Plan prioritizes the Hazards of Prime Concern. These Hazards of Prime Concern are:

·        Drought

·        Earthquake

·        Extreme Temperature

·        Wildfire

·        Flood

·        Geologic

·        Severe Weather

·        Tornado

·        Communicable Disease

·        Dam/Levee Failure

·        Hazardous Material Release

·        Terrorism

·       Infrastructure Incident


The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency will, whenever possible, adhere to the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP). The Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) provides a set of guiding principles for exercise programs, as well as a common approach to exercise program management, design and development, conduct, evaluation, and improvement planning. HSEEP exercise and evaluation doctrine is flexible, adaptable, and is for use by stakeholders across the whole community and is applicable for exercises across all mission areas – prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery.

Through the use of HSEEP, exercise program managers can develop, execute, and evaluate exercises that address the priorities established by an organization’s leaders. These priorities are based on the National Preparedness Goal, strategy documents, threat and hazard identification/risk assessment processes, capability assessments, and the results from previous exercises and real-world events. These priorities guide the overall direction of a progressive exercise program, where individual exercises are anchored to a common set of priorities or objectives and build toward an increasing level of complexity over time. Accordingly, these priorities guide the design and development of individual exercises, as planners identify exercise objectives and align them to core capabilities for evaluation during the exercise. Exercise evaluation assesses the ability to meet exercise objectives and capabilities by documenting strengths, areas for improvement, core capability performance, and corrective actions in an After-Action Report/Improvement Plan (AAR/IP). Through the Corrective Action Program, organizations take the corrective actions needed to improve plans, build and sustain capabilities, and maintain readiness.

In this way, the use of HSEEP—in line with the National Preparedness Goal and the National Preparedness System—supports efforts across the whole community that improve our state’s capacity to build, sustain, and deliver core capabilities.

Exercise program management is the process of overseeing and integrating a variety of exercises over time. An effective exercise program helps organizations maximize efficiency, resources, time, and funding by ensuring that exercises are part of a coordinated, integrated approach to building, sustaining, and delivering core capabilities. This approach—called multi-year planning—begins when elected and appointed officials, working with whole community stakeholders, identify and develop a set of multi-year exercise priorities informed by existing assessments, strategies, and plans. These long-term priorities help exercise planners design and develop a progressive program of individual exercises to build, sustain, and deliver core capabilities.

Effective exercise program management promotes a multi-year approach to:

• Engaging elected and appointed officials

• Establishing multi-year exercise program priorities

• Developing a multi-year TEP

• Maintaining a rolling summary of exercise outcomes

• Managing exercise program resources

Through effective exercise program management, each exercise becomes a supporting component of a larger exercise program with overarching priorities. Exercise practitioners are encouraged to apply and adapt HSEEP doctrine on exercise program management to meet their specific needs. It is important to note, however, that there is no “HSEEP Compliance,” and no requirement to use these principles.

Multi-year Exercise Program Priorities

An exercise program should be based on a set of strategic, high-level priorities selected by an organization’s elected and appointed officials. These priorities guide the development of exercise objectives, ensuring that individual exercises build and sustain preparedness in a progressive and coordinated fashion. Exercise program priorities are developed at the TEPW, as described in the following sections.

Training and Exercise Planning Workshop

The TEPW establishes the strategy and structure for an exercise program. In addition, it sets the foundation for the planning, conduct, and evaluation of individual exercises. The purpose of the TEPW is to use the guidance provided by elected and appointed officials to identify and set exercise program priorities and develop a multi-year schedule of exercise events and supporting training activities to meet those priorities. This process ensures whole community exercise initiatives are coordinated, prevents duplication of effort, promotes the efficient use of resources, avoids overextending key agencies and personnel, and maximizes the efficacy of training and exercise appropriations. TEPWs are held on a periodic basis (e.g., annual or biennial) depending on the needs of the program and any grant or cooperative agreement requirements.

TEMA will conduct an annual TEPW to fulfill the requirements to fulfill the requirements of Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) 58-2-106(b)(l)(G), that directs TEMA to, “establish guidelines and schedules for exercises that evaluate the ability of the state and its political subdivisions to respond to minor, major, and catastrophic disasters and support local emergency management agencies.”

Agencies and Jurisdictions wishing to provide input or request specific training and exercise events for the upcoming Multi-Year Training and Exercise Plan, should contact the TEMA Training and Exercise Managers as early as possible to ensure their inclusion in the TEPW.

Multi-year Training and Exercise Plan

Once the training and exercise program priorities have been outlined, stakeholders develop the multi-year TEP. The TEP identifies a combination of exercises—along with associated training requirements—that address the priorities identified in the TEPW.

Progressive Approach

A progressive, multi-year exercise program enables organizations to participate in a series of increasingly complex exercises, with each successive exercise building upon the previous one until mastery is achieved. Regardless of exercise type, each exercise within the progressive series is linked to a set of common program priorities and designed to test associated capabilities. Further, by defining training requirements in the planning process, organizations can address known shortfalls prior to exercising capabilities.

This progressive approach, with exercises that build upon each other and are supported at each step with training resources, will ensure that organizations do not rush into a full-scale exercise too quickly. Effective planning of exercises and integration of the necessary training will reduce the waste of limited exercise resources and serve to address known shortfalls prior to the conduct of the exercise. The different types of exercises that may be included in the multi-year plan are described in the following sections.

Discussion-Based Exercises

Discussion-based exercises include seminars, workshops, tabletop exercises (TTXs), and games. These types of exercises can be used to familiarize players with, or develop new, plans, policies, agreements, and procedures. Discussion-based exercises focus on strategic, policy-oriented issues. Facilitators and/or presenters usually lead the discussion, keeping participants on track towards meeting exercise objectives.


Seminars generally orient participants to, or provide an overview of, authorities, strategies, plans, policies, procedures, protocols, resources, concepts, and ideas. As a discussion-based exercise, seminars can be valuable for entities that are developing or making major changes to existing plans or procedures. Seminars can be similarly helpful when attempting to assess or gain awareness of the capabilities of interagency or inter-jurisdictional operations.


Although similar to seminars, workshops differ in two important aspects: participant interaction is increased, and the focus is placed on achieving or building a product. Effective workshops entail the broadest attendance by relevant stakeholders.

Products produced from a workshop can include new standard operating procedures (SOPs), emergency operations plans, continuity of operations plans, or mutual aid agreements. To be effective, workshops should have clearly defined objectives, products, or goals, and should focus on a specific issue.

Tabletop Exercises

A 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.

During a TTX, all participants should be encouraged to contribute to the discussion and be reminded that they are making decisions in a no-fault environment. Effective TTX facilitation is critical to keeping participants focused on exercise objectives and associated capability targets.


A game is 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. Games explore the consequences of player decisions and actions. They are useful tools for validating plans and procedures or evaluating resource requirements.

During game play, decision-making may be either slow and deliberate or rapid and more stressful, depending on the exercise design and objectives. The open, decision-based format of a game can incorporate “what if” questions that expand exercise benefits. Depending on the game’s design, the consequences of player actions can be either pre-scripted or decided dynamically. Identifying critical decision-making points is a major factor in the success of evaluating a game.

Operations-Based Exercises

Operations-based exercises include drills, functional exercises (FEs), and full-scale exercises (FSEs). These exercises can be used to validate plans, policies, agreements, and procedures; clarify roles and responsibilities; and identify resource gaps. Operations-based exercises are characterized by actual reaction to an exercise scenario, such as initiating communications or mobilizing personnel and resources.


A drill is a coordinated, supervised activity usually employed to validate a specific function or capability in a single agency or organization. Drills are commonly used to provide training on new equipment, validate procedures, or practice and maintain current skills. For example, drills may be appropriate for establishing a community-designated disaster receiving center or shelter. Drills can also be used to determine if plans can be executed as designed, to assess whether more training is required, or to reinforce best practices. A drill is useful as a stand-alone tool, but a series of drills can be used to prepare several organizations to collaborate in an FSE.

For every drill, clearly defined plans, procedures, and protocols need to be in place. Personnel need to be familiar with those plans and trained in the processes and procedures to be drilled.

Functional Exercises

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, and control functions. In FEs, events are projected through an exercise scenario with event updates that drive activity typically at the 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 to simulate real events.

Full-Scale Exercises

FSEs are typically the most complex and resource-intensive type of exercise. They 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) or Unified Command.

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.

The level of support needed to conduct an FSE is greater than that needed for other types of exercises. The exercise site for an FSE is usually large, and site logistics require close monitoring. Safety issues, particularly regarding the use of props and special effects, must be monitored. Throughout the duration of the exercise, many activities occur simultaneously.

Rolling Summary of Outcomes

To help ensure that exercise program priorities are adequately addressed, exercise program managers should periodically develop and distribute a rolling summary of exercise outcomes, or rolling summary report. A rolling summary report provides stakeholders with an analysis of issues, trends, and key outcomes from all exercises conducted as part of the exercise program.

This report is designed to:

• Inform elected and appointed officials on the progress of the exercise program;

• Provide data to support preparedness assessments and reporting requirements; and

• Enable exercise planners to modify objectives and the exercise schedule to reflect knowledge gathered from the exercises.

The rolling summary report is not a collection of AARs, but rather an analysis of trends across exercises. It is developed periodically throughout the series of exercises covered in a multi-year TEP (e.g., quarterly or biennially, depending how many exercises are conducted). This report is

The rolling summary report is an analysis of exercise trends, which guides the development of future exercises.

In the design and development phase, exercise practitioners use the intent and guidance of their elected and appointed officials and the exercise program priorities developed in Phase 1: Program Management to plan individual exercises. Exercise planning teams apply this guidance to shape the key concepts and planning considerations for an individual exercise or series of exercises. The eight key steps of exercise design and development include:

• Setting the exercise foundation by reviewing elected and appointed officials’ guidance, the TEP, and other factors;

• Selecting participants for an exercise planning team and developing an exercise planning timeline with milestones;

• Developing exercise-specific objectives and identifying core capabilities based on the guidance of elected and appointed officials;

• Identifying evaluation requirements;

• Developing the exercise scenario;

• Creating documentation;

• Coordinating logistics; and

• Planning for exercise control and evaluation.

The exercise foundation is a set of key factors that drive the exercise design and development process. Prior to the beginning of its design, exercise program managers should review and consider the following items:

• Elected and appointed officials’ intent and guidance

• Multi-year TEP

• Relevant AAR/IPs from real-world events and exercises

• THIRA or other risk, threat, and hazard assessments

• Organizational plans and procedures

• Grant or cooperative agreement requirements.

By reviewing these elements, exercise program managers adhere to the progressive approach to exercises, and ensure the exercise builds and sustains a jurisdiction’s capabilities while taking prior lessons learned into account during the exercise design process.

Exercise conduct involves activities such as preparing for exercise play, managing exercise play, and conducting immediate exercise wrap-up activities. For discussion-based exercises, conduct also entails presentation, facilitation, and discussion. For operations-based exercises, conduct encompasses all operations occurring between the designated Start of Exercise (StartEx) and End of Exercise (EndEx). Exercise practitioners are encouraged to apply and adapt HSEEP doctrine on exercise conduct to meet their specific needs. Throughout these efforts, the engagement of elected and appointed officials by practitioners will ensure that the exercise is addressing the guidance and intent of officials.

Exercise evaluation maintains the fundamental link between the exercise and improvement planning. Through exercise evaluation, organizations assess the capabilities needed to accomplish a mission, function, or objective. This assessment is based on the performance of critical tasks to capability target levels. Effective exercise evaluation involves:

• Planning for exercise evaluation;

• Observing the exercise and collecting exercise data during exercise conduct;

• Analyzing collected data to identify strengths and areas for improvement; and

• Reporting exercise outcomes in a draft AAR.

Using a common approach to evaluation supports consistent and meaningful reporting of exercise results. Basing all exercises on specific Plans will allow the exercise controllers to accurately and consistently evaluate exercises and provide actionable improvement targets

Exercises afford organizations the opportunity to evaluate capabilities and assess progress toward meeting capability targets in a controlled, low-risk setting. After the evaluation phase concludes, organizations should reach consensus on identified strengths and areas for improvement and develop a set of improvements that directly addresses core capability gaps. This information is recorded in the AAR/IP and resolved through the implementation of concrete corrective actions, which are prioritized and tracked as part of a corrective action program. This process constitutes the improvement planning phase and the final step in conducting an exercise.

Once exercise data are analyzed, organizations should perform an additional qualitative assessment to identify potential corrective actions. Corrective actions are concrete, actionable steps that are intended to resolve capability gaps and shortcomings identified in exercises or real-world events. In developing corrective actions, elected and appointed officials or their designees should first review and revise the draft AAR, as needed, prior to the After-Action Meeting (AAM) to confirm that the issues identified by evaluators are valid and require resolution. The reviewer then identifies which issues fall within their organization’s authority, and assume responsibility for taking action on those issues. Finally, they determine an initial list of appropriate corrective actions to resolve identified issues.

The organization’s reviewer should use the following questions to guide their discussion when developing corrective actions:

• What changes need to be made to plans and procedures to improve performance?

• What changes need to be made to organizational structures to improve performance?

• What changes need to be made to management processes to improve performance?

• What changes to equipment or resources are needed to improve performance?

• What training is needed to improve performance?

• What are the lessons learned for approaching similar problems in the future?

Corrective Action Tracking and Implementation

Corrective actions captured in the AAR/IP should be tracked and continually reported on until completion. Organizations should assign points of contact responsible for tracking and reporting on their progress in implementing corrective actions. By tracking corrective actions to completion, preparedness stakeholders are able to demonstrate that exercises have yielded tangible improvements in preparedness. Stakeholders should also ensure there is a system in place to validate previous corrective actions that have been successfully implemented. These efforts should be considered part of a wider continuous improvement process that applies prior to, during, and after an exercise is completed.

Conducting exercises and documenting the strengths, areas for improvement, and associated corrective actions is an important part of the National Preparedness System, and contributes to the strengthening of preparedness across the Whole Community and achievement of the National Preparedness Goal. Over time, exercises should yield observable improvements in preparedness for future exercises and real-world events.

TEMA will track all Corrective Action items in accordance with the Corrective Action Program and report to applicable stakeholders on the status of those actions. These Corrective Actions will be used to advise and drive gap analyses and other program goals, at the discretion of the Director, or his/her delegated representatives.

Program Contacts:

Adam Stewart | Exercise Program Manager        adam.stewart@tn.gov                       

3041 Sidco Drive   Nashville, TN 37204