Using FEMA Exercise Planning Guidelines to Develop Your Next Mock Disaster Exercise

At MHA, we plan, develop and implement multiple mock disaster exercises for new and existing clients across the country.

In order to ensure consistency in the planning, development and execution of each exercise, we use the FEMA Exercise Planning Guidelines as our tool for each exercise.  The FEMA Planning Guideline booklet can be found on the website.  The planning guidelines ensure a consistent approach that will lead to consistent results, key to improving the sophistication and maturity of your continuity program.

 We use the majority of the guidelines and recommend the following steps in planning an exercise:

  1. Exercise Type – Drill, Tabletop, Functional, Full Scale
  2. Exercise Purpose – Why are doing the exercise?
  3. Scenario Narrative – A paragraph on what the scenario is about
  4. Scope of the Scenario – Type of exercise, dates of exercise, exercise location. exercise times, participating locations, etc.
  5. Assumptions – What assumptions must be in place in order for the exercise to be successful?

  6. Objectives- What are the objectives we are attempting to achieve in this exercise?
  7. Exercise Team Staffing, Rules and Procedures  – How will you staff and run the exercise?
  8. Administrative, Logistical and Support Needs – Training, food, audio visual, transportation, etc.
  9. Safety and Security – Do you have special safety or security needs?
  10. Scenario Planning
    • Scenario Major Events – Outline the major events of the scenario from the beginning to end.
    • Scenario Detailed Events – Outline the supporting events of the scenario from the beginning to end.

    • Expected Actions – For the major/detailed events, what is the expected actions of the participants?
    • Expected Actions  versus Objectives – Do expected actions match objectives?
    • Scenario Injects – The completed scenario from beginning to end.

This is a simplified view of the planning process for a mock disaster exercise.  Remember, your scenario is a story.  It should have a beginning, middle and end.

By using a consistent planning approach, you ensure consistent results.  Good luck planning your next disaster!

If you have questions on planning your next mock disaster, contact me, Michael Herrera, at herrera at mha-it dot com.  Michael Herrera has planned, developed and facilitated close to 100 mock disaster exercises for clients across the country.

About MHA: MHA Consulting, with its decade-long track record, is a proven leader in business continuity planning, disaster recovery planning, IT best practices and data center moves and relocations. Every day, MHA helps protect trillions of dollars of global-market assets and top companies around the world rely on MHA services for the continuity of their business. For more information on MHA, contact Michael Herrera at [email protected].

Michael Herrera is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of MHA. In his role, Michael provides global leadership to the entire set of industry practices and horizontal capabilities within MHA. Under his leadership, MHA has become a leading provider of Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery services to organizations on a global level. He is also the founder of BCMMETRICS, a leading cloud based tool designed to assess business continuity compliance and residual risk. Michael is a well-known and sought after speaker on Business Continuity issues at local and national contingency planner chapter meetings and conferences. Prior to founding MHA, he was a Regional VP for Bank of America, where he was responsible for Business Continuity across the southwest region.

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