Office of Operations
21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Tabletop Exercise Instructions for Planned Events and Unplanned Incidents/Emergencies

Printable version [PDF 348KB]

Generic Tabletop Exercise PowerPoint (HTML)
Generic Tabletop Exercise PowerPoint Version (PPT 240KB)
Generic Tabletop Exercise PowerPoint PDF Version (PDF 359KB)

You may need the Adobe® Reader® to view the PDF(s) on this page.
You may need the Microsoft PowerPoint Viewer to view PPT(s) on the page.

Contact Information: OperationsFeedback@dot.gov

United States Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration logo.

U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
Office of Operations
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov

Publication #: FHWA-HOP-15-004

March 2015

NOTICE

THIS DOCUMENT IS DISSEMINATED UNDER THE SPONSORSHIP OF THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION IN THE INTEREST OF INFORMATION EXCHANGE. THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT ASSUMES NO LIABILITY FOR ITS CONTENTS OR USE THEREOF. THIS REPORT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE A STANDARD, SPECIFICATION, OR REGULATION.

THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT DOES NOT ENDORSE PRODUCTS OR MANUFACTURERS. TRADE AND MANUFACTURERS' NAMES APPEAR IN THIS REPORT ONLY BECAUSE THEY ARE CONSIDERED ESSENTIAL TO THE OBJECT OF THE DOCUMENT.

Technical Report Documentation Page

1. Report No.
FHWA-HOP-15-004
2. Government Accession No. 3. Recipient's Catalog No.
4. Title and Subtitle
Tabletop Exercise Guidelines for Planned Events and Unplanned Incidents/Emergencies
5. Report Date:
November 2014
6. Performing Organization Code
7. Author(s)
Laurel Radow, editor
8. Performing Organization Report No.
9. Performing Organization Name and Address
Federal Highway Administration,
1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E., HOTO-1
Washington, D.C. 20590
10. Work Unit No. (TRAIS)
11. Contract or Grant No.
12. Sponsoring Agency Name and Address
Federal Highway Administration,
1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E., HOTO-1
Washington, D.C. 20590
13. Type of Report and Period Covered
Final Report
14. Sponsoring Agency Code
HOTO-1, FHWA
15. Supplementary Notes
Laurel Radow, FHWA Transportation Operations, Office of Transportation Operations
16. Abstract

When planned special events are held, they generally increase traffic demands in or near the location of the event. In order to address this influx of traffic, transportation management plans are developed with the intent of minimizing the effect the event has on the transportation system. For a transportation management plan to be successful, however, it is strongly recommended that the plan be tested and reviewed prior to the event. One of the most effective ways to test a transportation management plan is through a tabletop exercise.

A tabletop exercise uses the transportation management plan as the basis for action. It enables participants to role play in a scenario-based exercise conducted in an informal stress-free environment. During this low cost/low stress activity, key stakeholders involved in the planning and implementation of transportation management plans test the plan through a facilitated scenario based discussion. Tabletop exercises allow traffic management team officials to review the effect of certain event-specific action plans on other concurrent events. Through this interaction, contingencies are vetted and resolved. In addition, a tabletop exercise can be used to train and familiarize personnel with their roles and responsibilities within the planned special event's transportation management plan.

No matter how thorough a transportation management plan may be, it cannot account for all contingencies. The purposes of a tabletop exercise are to (1) test the written assumptions in the transportation management plan and (2) see what must be changed and how the plan can be improved from regional good practices and tabletop after actions. The tabletop exercise allows the participants to see how they react to unexpected events such as equipment failure or personnel shortages.

Though originally designed for planned special events, the information in the guide can be used for the management of unplanned incidents including traffic incidents and responses to emergencies.

17. Key Words
Tabletop Exercise; Planned Special Events; Traffic Incident Management; Transportation Management Plan; Emergency Transportation Operations; Roles and Responsibilities
18. Distribution Statement
No restrictions.
19. Security Classification (of this report)
Unclassified
20. Security Classification (of this page)
Unclassified
21. No of Pages
28
22. Price

Form DOT F 1700.7 (8-72)
Reproduction of completed page authorized.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Section One - Preparing for the Tabletop Exercise
    1. Scenario Writing Tips
      1. Generic questions
      2. Generic scenario
    2. Links to YouTube Videos
    3. Generic PowerPoint Presentation
  3. Section Two - The Exercise
    1. General Guidelines for Conducting Tabletop Exercises
    2. Roles and Responsibilities
    3. Master List of Exercise Objectives

INTRODUCTION

This 2014 version of the 2007 document, "Tabletop Exercise Instructions for Planned Events and Unplanned Incidents/Emergencies was undertaken to include the recent explosion of information on how to organize a tabletop exercise now available. In the search while updating the document, it became evident that it is still somewhat difficult to find is a complete package that includes a written document that offers simple, clear-cut steps for those not familiar with tabletop exercises; links to videos; and a PowerPoint presentation the facilitator can tailor to use at the beginning of the exercise. This revised document seeks to include these three components.

A recent review shows that the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), various health agencies and utilities have prepared tabletop exercise material and/or held exercises to meet their specific needs. Finding tabletop exercises that either deal specifically with transportation issues or explain how to incorporate transportation concerns into a broader tabletop exercise are not readily available. The intent of this document is to help fill that void.

When planned special events (PSE) are held, they generally increase traffic demands in or near the location of the event. In order to address this influx of traffic, transportation management plans are developed with the intent of minimizing the effect the event has on the transportation system. For a transportation management plan to be successful, however, it is strongly recommended that the plan be tested and reviewed prior to the event. One of the most effective ways to test a transportation management plan is through a tabletop exercise.

For traffic incidents, tabletop exercises are a valuable way to bring the on-scene responders from the range of multi-discipline agencies together at one time. The exercise offers in a very short time all a very clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of all involved at the scene. Often for traffic incidents, the exercise is based on a recent incident.

Why Exercise?

  • To develop an interagency team with a common understanding of the transportation aspects of a planned special event or an unplanned incident.
  • To test the transportation plan that has been developed to ensure that it addresses a range of concerns including contingencies.
  • To prepare for the event including unexpected changes to the plan.
  • To improve individual and agency performance

When the exercise is for a planned special event, a tabletop exercise uses the transportation management plan as the basis for action. It enables participants to role play in a scenario-based exercise conducted in an informal stress-free environment. During this low cost/low stress activity, key stakeholders involved in the planning and implementation of transportation management plans test the plan through a facilitated scenario-based discussion. Tabletop exercises allow traffic management team officials to review the effect of certain event-specific action plans on other concurrent events. Through this interaction, contingencies are vetted and resolved. In addition, a tabletop exercise can be used to train and familiarize personnel with their roles and responsibilities within the planned special event's transportation management plan.

No matter how thorough a transportation management plan may be, it cannot account for all contingencies. The purposes of a tabletop exercise are to (1) test the written assumptions in the transportation management plan and (2) see what must be changed and how the plan can be improved. The tabletop exercise allows the participants to see how they react to unexpected events such as equipment failure or personnel shortages.

For planned special events, review and testing allows the traffic management team to identify potential limitations of the traffic management plan prior to the day-of-event. With stakeholder agencies representing various jurisdictions and disciplines, review and testing promotes traffic management team coordination and increases stakeholder familiarity of the duties, responsibilities, and capabilities of other stakeholders. Activities range from tabletop exercises that examine how different agencies react to various scenarios to "hands-on" applications that can involve a full simulation or deploying a transportation management plan for smaller planned special events as a test.

Without the benefit of testing the transportation management plan, discrepancies may not be realized until the actual implementation of the plan. During these exercises, mistakes can be discovered while there is still time to make modifications and before any negative consequences are realized.

Section One Preparing for the Tabletop Exercise

Scenario Writing Tips

Scenario building can be daunting. To ease that fear, one option is to use a scenario based on a recent event and that event can be fairly well known. At critical points either as the scenario unfolds during the exercise or as it meets the needs of those involved in the exercise develop the questions the facilitator uses and based on the scenario that is used. Some of the questions to use (and adaptation of these questions is strongly encouraged by the exercise organizer and facilitator who are far more familiar with both the specific event and the intent of the tabletop exercise) are provided below.

Tabletop scenarios should have the level of detail to give those involved in the exercise as many of the answers you need to help shape the standard operating procedures [SOP] (or also called Plans of Action or [POAs]). At the end of the exercise (and probably during it as well, it helps to ask those involved

In general, the questions seek to accomplish the following:

  • Who does what?
  • When the specific task needs to be done?
  • How all parties involved are kept informed about decisions? (As an example, for operations, the lack of clear communications is almost always the number one reason [or at least in the top five] why the response failed or at best, wasn't as prompt as it should have been.)

To help those writing the scenario as well as the facilitator, these questions show how to integrate the questions into the scenario.

  • Hour 1: what is the first thing that needs to be done when X happens? (X being what you see as the first critical juncture which could either be a weather service update, a decision from the mayor's/governor's office, a real-time event that changes route options or another critical juncture.)
  • Who makes the first decision/first call?
  • It is very possible that several decisions need to be made concurrently. If so, who makes those decisions and how is the initial and or the concurrent information shared?

The facilitator shares information will all involved. As tabletop exercises are not exercises in ESP, no one in the exercise has access to outside knowledge. All players are dependent on the information provided by the facilitator. The facilitator takes in that information and throughout the exercise asks, what happens next. For example, the x group makes the decision to do y. The facilitator always has the ability to interrupt the discussion to ask, "is anything missing? or is anyone or any organization missing?" To help the participants understand where they are in the cycle of the event, it helps for the facilitator to say, "At this stage of the exercise, we're now 5 hours/1 day/etc. into the event.

Some questions to consider after the opening part of the scenario has been read

  • Who makes the first decision?
  • How is that information conveyed to others who need to know?

Generic Questions

  • What ifs and what needs to be done?
  • Who is responsible for what?
  • Is everyone familiar with the plan?
  • Is everyone familiar with their roles and responsibilities?
  • Are people familiar with the roles and responsibilities of their partners?
  • Is anything currently going on that is way out of scope or practice?
  • Lines of communication (within the team and to the public) are they clear?

Exercise to emphasize:
Technical aspects of the plan (i.e., making route change decisions and conveying those changes)
Who else needs to know?
----

Generic Scenario

Scenario: Truck spills contents on Main Street

Objectives:

  • Who gets the information and how is it conveyed?
  • How are decisions about alternate routes made and shared?

At 2:00 AM on Tuesday March 13, a tanker truck overturns on Main Street and blocks both directions of traffic. The truck has a liquid that begins to spill. The liquid may be hazardous.

How would the incident be detected? How would you know about this truck?
For the truck to be moved and to help move the buses, a wrecker needs to be called.
How would the wreckers be notified?
How will the wrecker get to the truck?
Who would be the first on the scene?
How would the responders communicate with each other (both en-route and on scene)?
What happens when the liquid is determined to be a hazardous liquid? How do you learn about the contents of the truck? How will you learn if the material in the truck is hazardous?
How would the traffic control center learn of the spill?
What information is given to the buses bringing spectators from other cities?
Can the buses be diverted en-route, or will they add to the queue behind the incident?
Who is the central contact point for the tour buses?
How will real-time traveler information be provided to travelers in this area?
What time is the road closed?
Who (which agency) is responsible for responding to a hazardous material truck?

How will this event affect the event?
These events happen often but how will it affect the buses that may not know the alternate routes?
How will those managing the event (all players) know?
As the liquid may be a hazardous spill, what has to happen?
Who would be the first on the scene?
How would the transportation management center/traffic control center learn of the spill?
How will the spectators traveling from more than fifty miles from the venue reach the event?
How will real-time traveler information be provided?
It's 2 a.m. and the road is jammed, what other options are available to move the spectators? Will an alternate route be needed? If so, how will the bus drivers be contacted about a route shift? How much lead time do the bus drivers need to know the alternate routes?
Once the detour is in place, what needs to happen?
Who else needs to know?
Who else might this affect?

It is now 3 a.m., who from your traffic control team will be working? If the traffic control team doesn't start until 6 a.m., how will they know of this event?

This is a police function as it should be. How should the event in this instance be treated differently?

Shift for the transportation team begins when? 6 a.m. If the team members do or don't know, remind them that the buses start to leave at 5 a.m. What needs to happen to make the flow of communication about the incident available to the bus drivers who need to move the spectators from their distant locations?

Where does the 24/7 police function tie to the traffic control center that opens at 6 a.m.? How is the information conveyed to the traffic control center?

  • Detection
  • Response
  • Verification

What's the risk to the event?

  • Spectators staying outside of the city don't arrive.
  • Players and officials not affected.
  • Media notice small contingency of fans and those becomes a news story.
  • Fans from other countries are more likely to be staying in the city or environs and are very likely to be overrepresented in the stands.

Who needs to know? Who needs to know at 2 a.m.? Is there a way to make use of existing technologies that would allow you to find this out without a telephone call?

Do you have this information?
Who else needs to know?
Do you have current telephone numbers?
Are the numbers you need in your phone list?
Is how this information is shared in your transportation plan?

Summarizing points

  • Why in the big picture, is this important?
  • The event will go on but the media are likely to make note.
  • How to coordinate.
  • Who needs to know?
  • Good communication.

Wrap-up
If the exercise identified items that need to be

  • Changed
  • Resolved

Links to YouTube Videos

Depending on the search words used, a number of YouTube videos offer very good examples of a well-designed tabletop exercise. Though none dealing specifically with transportation were found, when the phrase, "videos of tabletop exercises" was typed in, these YouTube videos were listed
How to Plan a Tabletop Exercise - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5GwKru1Z0g

TXWARN Tabletop Exercise http://securitynotes.asdwa.org/?s=TXWARN+Tabletop+exercise
One suggestion is to fast forward about 18 minutes in the Part 1 of Tabletop Exercise Teleconference Video to hear a presentation on tabletop exercises. The four part video offers a good example, among other points, of how utilities can and should work together during an emergency, the ways utilities and their communities can work collaboratively with the Local Emergency Planning Committees, and the proper protocols to engage state primacy and emergency management agency resources.

To view a discussion on what was learned at their exercise, view "Disaster and Town Management Tabletop Exercise Reflections," at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_nsq9C8xJo

Generic PowerPoint Presentation

Presentation is available as a separate document and is designed for the facilitator to adapt for the specific exercise.

Section Two The Exercise

GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR CONDUCTING TABLETOP EXERCISES

Planning for a Tabletop Exercise

Planning is critical to ensure that a tabletop exercise will be productive and useful for participating stakeholders. Following is a list of the major elements involved in planning for a tabletop exercise:

Several months ahead of time:

  • Identify the stakeholders who will participate in the exercise.
  • Distribute copies of the transportation management plan and implementation plan to participants.
  • Develop a script for the exercise, including surprise elements, which may not be addressed in the transportation management plan.
  • Provide a timeline for the exercise to play-out (the exercise will probably take place in an accelerated timeframe compared to a real-life event).
  • Identify reviewers and evaluators who will watch the exercise and take notes for the after action report.
  • Provide time to review the exercise.
  • Modify the plan based on what was learned during the exercise.

Participants

The purpose of a tabletop exercise is to encourage discussion among the stakeholders and to develop recognition of coordination and planning requirements. This can only be accomplished if group discussion takes place freely and without embarrassment to any individual or service. In order to make sure this type of environment exists, it is critical that care be taken when identifying a facilitator for the tabletop exercise. The facilitator of the exercise should be someone who has expertise and is knowledgeable with the planning and implementation of the transportation plans for planned special events but who is not an exercise "player." Ideally, this would either be the traffic engineer or an instructor who has the responsibility and knowledge of planned special events and resources available in your community.

Planned special events tabletop exercise participants should (at least) include representatives of fire and rescue, police/law enforcement, transportation and/or public works, venue representatives, transit, emergency medical services, towing and recovery, elected officials, public information, and emergency management, and, if appropriate, a representative from the transportation operations center. Additional details concerning the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders typically involved with the traffic management for unplanned incidents is discussed in greater detail in the Roles and Responsibilities section.

In addition, since participants cannot be expected to remember all that takes place during the exercise, it is critical that observers be used to: (1) watch what happens, (2) take notes on what is seen and heard, and (3) recount observations during the review process to provide for the after action report.

Scenarios

The goal of testing a transportation management plan is not to be mistake free, but to identify potential problems areas. For tabletop exercises to be effective, they should test as many parts of the transportation management plan as possible using scenarios. A number of scenarios that cause disruptions to event traffic should be developed, keeping in mind that the scenarios should be as realistic as possible. Often times during a tabletop a simple scenario is presented to initiate discussion, and as the exercise progresses the scenario is escalated. During scenario discussions, operational problems and solutions can be identified.

These scenarios typically do not require modeled network information, as their primary purpose is to test the stakeholders as to how they would react and to fine tune the responsibilities of each stakeholder and the communications protocol between the stakeholders.

After Action Review

After action reviews are conducted after a tabletop or any exercise has ended. The purpose of the review is to:

  • Evaluate changes and corrections to the planned special events transportation plan.
  • Evaluate what if any additional interagency coordination is needed.
  • Serve as a guide for future exercises.
  • Verify the exercise goals were achieved.
  • Evaluate training and staff deficiencies.

Participant input is also crucial in the review process. They can note difficulties experienced during the exercise that might not be obvious to observers. Reviewers should debrief participants as soon as possible after the exercise so participants do not forget what they experienced. These participant observations should also be included in a more extensive review of the exercise. Individuals who do not represent day-of event traffic management team personnel or event stakeholders can be very useful in moderating the review process since they do not bring real or perceived bias into the process. Finally, all of the observations and insights are useless unless there exists some opportunity to incorporate recommended changes into the transportation management plan.

Tips to Ensure an Effective Tabletop Exercise

The following are guidelines that will make your tabletop exercise more effective:

  • Send formal invitations and ensure all logistics including location, directions, and amenities provided as part of the exercise day is included.
  • The exercise should be held in a room with a conference table, or with the seating arranged in a manner in which the participants are able to see all other participants.
  • Have coffee/soda available for the participants helps promote a relaxed atmosphere.
  • Provide a large detailed map of the exercise area so that all participants can visualize the area involved.
  • A recorder (not an exercise "player") should write down exercise responses and note the major issues/problems.
  • Plan on at least one hour, preferably three for the exercise. If the exercise fails to become productive within the first hour, it's best to discontinue and discuss the possible reasons why this has occurred.
  • After the exercise-all participants should be asked to complete an evaluation of the exercise, and make suggestions and comments with regard to emergency operations plan revisions.
  • A need to schedule future meetings to distribute the exercise after action report, and any revisions needed to the plan shortly after this tabletop exercise, while thoughts are still fresh in everyone's mind, may be appropriate.

Additional tabletop exercises may be needed to evaluate the revisions/accomplish local goals of this exercise.

LIMITATIONS

One shortcoming of the tabletop is that not all of the participants, especially the frontline personnel, will take part in the exercise. This could mean that those who are playing the role of a traffic management team member might handle events differently than those who actually would take the actions on the day-of-event, or that actions might differ if there were interaction with other participants. It also means that the insights, questions and suggestions of these operational personnel are lost. One way this can be addressed, in part, is to have several tabletop exercises, which review portions of the plan with smaller groups. Having multiple tabletop exercises better accommodates the schedule of designated traffic management team personnel. These exercises can focus on that portion of the plan, which in turn, involves these individuals.

A tabletop may also miss outside influences that would be dealt with during an actual planned special event. For example, an operator at a traffic operations center may be handling other activities during a special event such as an incident not associated with the event.

It should be noted that tabletop exercises can also be held prior to a more detailed exercise, which involves a greater number of people. In fact, a tabletop may identify problems which can be corrected prior to a more detailed exercise and allow a better simulation of what takes place.

OTHER SOURCES

Sources used in the development of this guidance document:

Roles and Responsibilities: Explanation

The roles and responsibilities or "back stories" for each of the groups represented in this guide is divided into two sections. The first group lists their planned special events responsibilities and the second section lists the responsibilities for unplanned events either traffic incidents or emergencies. Some of the groups that will participate in the tabletop have responsibilities for only one of these areas.

Though the summary of the roles and responsibilities is somewhat generic, the write-up is intended to give the group as much information as possible about their responsibilities for both the planned events and unplanned incidents/emergencies.

Planned Special Events

The oversight team involves stakeholders participating in program planning activities to improve the management of travel during future planned special events. These stakeholders include mid-to-upper level representatives of transportation agencies and law enforcement.

Additional stakeholders include elected officials, regional organizations, and other government agencies. Members of an oversight team work to establish policies, regulations, procedures, and task forces for future application to a specific planned special event. Team members may work with an event planning team, consult on feasibility study results and evaluate conceptual transportation management plan components. Stakeholders may also work independent of the team to evaluate potential new technology applications that may improve their performance and capabilities while meeting team objectives.

Transportation

Transportation agencies are responsible for the overall planning and implementation of traffic incident management programs. These agencies are also involved in the development, implementation, and operation of traffic operations centers (TOC), as well as the management of service patrols. Transportation agencies are secondary responders. That is, they are most likely to be called to the incident scene by first responders, usually law enforcement. Transportation agencies are rarely connected directly to public safety emergency communications and dispatch systems. These agencies develop the transportation management plans for planned special events.

Planned Events Responsibilities

  • Operates and maintains the transportation system.
  • Develops an action plan corresponding to each identified planned special event level.
    • The action plan will list recommended practices for stakeholders who regularly manage traffic during the occurrence of a planned special event.
  • Provide motorist information.
  • Establish alternate routes.
  • Develop a transportation management plan.
  • Manage either an event planning team, traffic management team, or both.
  • Provides traffic control devices through the agency's maintenance department.
  • Review existing resources and if needed, supply and install on streets serving a fixed event venue, permanent equipment such as CCTV cameras, lane control signals, dynamic trailblazers, and parking management systems Intelligent Transportation Systems equipment.
  • Deploy portable traffic management systems, such as portable CCTV, portable changeable message signs, (CMSs), portable highway advisory radio (HAR), portable vehicle detectors, and portable traffic signals.
  • Establish and/or coordinate temporary task forces charged with a particular function, such as event communications.
  • Crash prevention through portable lighting, congestion warning signs, public information safety campaign, and enforcement.
  • Use of or increase in service patrols as well as dedicated law enforcement for on-scene incident management and clearance, traffic management plan deployment, and traffic conditions monitoring.

Transit agency

  • Develops specialized transit plans, complementing an event traffic management plan that detail schedules and necessary equipment and personnel resources to ensure mobility.

Transportation - Unplanned Incident Responsibilities

  • Assist in incident detection and verification.
  • Initiate traffic management strategies on incident impacted facilities.
  • Protect the incident scene.
  • Initiate emergency medical assistance until help arrives.
  • Provide traffic control.
  • Assist motorist with disabled vehicles.
  • Provide motorist information.
  • Provide sand for absorbing small fuel and anti-freeze spills.
  • Provide special equipment clearing incident scenes.
  • Determine incident clearance and roadway repair needs.
  • Establish and operate alternate routes.
  • Coordinate clearance and repair resources.
  • Serve as incident commander for clearance and repair functions.
  • Repair transportation infrastructure.

Police/Law Enforcement

Law enforcement agencies include State Police and Highway Patrols, County Police and County Sheriffs, Township and Municipal Police and other agencies which have officers sworn to enforce laws.

Jurisdiction of law enforcement agencies varies widely from state to state and even within a state. Typically, State Police and Highway Patrols have jurisdiction on State highways and county and municipal police have jurisdiction off the State highway system. State Police and Highway Patrols have statewide coverage and many lack sufficient resources to adequately respond to incidents on State highways in urban areas. In many locations, State law enforcement agencies receive assistance from county and local agencies and in some cases local law enforcement has jurisdiction even on State highways.

Law enforcement agencies are first responders at traffic incident scenes, providing 24-hour emergency response and operating under a paramilitary command structure. At most traffic incidents, law enforcement officers act alone and trained to make unilateral command decisions.

Planned Events Responsibilities

  • Directs traffic.
  • Facilitate the safe and efficient flow of traffic through traffic control and enforcement.
  • Develop and execute a street traffic management plan.
  • Manage traffic control and security on the day-of-event.
  • Enforce traffic and parking restrictions.
  • Escorts dignitaries to/from the event venue.
  • Enforce the requirements of a traffic operations agency.
  • Manage transportation operations on streets adjacent to the venue and/or corridors serving the venue during future planned special events.
  • Local and county law enforcement agencies with a traffic operations bureau are responsible for developing and executing a local street traffic management plan.
  • Approve local street closures.
  • Approve an event traffic flow plan.
  • Approve temporary traffic control deployment.

Unplanned Incident Responsibilities:

  • Secure the incident scene.
  • Provide emergency medical aid until help arrives.
  • Safeguard personal property.
  • Conduct accident investigations.
  • Serve as incident commander.
  • Supervise scene clearance.
  • Assist disabled motorists.
  • Direct traffic.

Fire and Rescue

Fire and rescue services are provided by county and municipal fire departments, and by surrounding fire departments through mutual aid agreements.

In most jurisdictions, the fire department is the primary emergency response agency for hazardous materials spills. Like law enforcement agencies, fire and rescue departments also operate as first responders under a well-defined command structure providing 24-hour emergency response. Unlike law enforcement, which operates individually for most duties, fire departments operate under a highly organized team structure with the close supervision of a commanding officer. Fire departments and emergency medical service providers (EMS) also act at the direction of one decision maker, and may not respond individually to requests from other response agencies unless their command officer directs them to do so.

In most large urban areas, fulltime professional personnel staff fire and rescue departments. In many suburban and in most rural areas, volunteers primarily provide fire and rescue services.

Planned Events Responsibilities

  • Ensures adequate provision of emergency access routes to and from the event venue.
  • Ensures adequate pedestrian access routes and evacuation destination areas exist to meet emergency management plan requirements.
  • On-site, trained, professional and licensed emergency medical professionals provide immediate emergency medical assistance for those in attendance.

Unplanned Incident Responsibilities

  • Protect the incident scene.
  • Suppress fires.
  • Provide emergency medical care.
  • Serve as incident commander.
  • Provide initial HAZMAT response and containment.
  • Rescue crash victims from contaminated environments.
  • Rescue crash victims from wrecked vehicles.
  • Arrange transportation for the injured.
  • Assist in incident clearance.
  • Provide traffic control until law enforcement or DOT arrival.

Emergency Medical Services

The primary responsibilities of EMS are the triage, treatment, and transport of crash victims. In many areas, fire and rescue companies provide emergency medical services. In other localities, some EMS services are part of separate agencies. And, in some areas, private companies provide these services to local jurisdictions under contract.

Emergency medical services have evolved as primary care givers to individuals needing medical care in emergencies. As with police, emergency medical personnel have a defined set of priorities. They focus on providing patient care, crash victim rescue, and ensuring the safety of their personnel.

Planned Events Responsibilities

  • Ensures adequate provision of emergency access routes to and from the event venue.

Unplanned Incident Responsibilities

  • Provide advanced emergency medical care.
  • Determine destination and transportation requirements for the injured.
  • Coordinate evacuation with fire, police and ambulance or airlift.
  • Serve as incident commander for medical emergencies.
  • Determine approximate cause of injuries for the trauma center.
  • Remove medical waste from incident scene.

Emergency Management

Planned Events Responsibilities

  • May serve as the agency that coordinates the public agencies' during the planning, preparation and duration of the event.

Unplanned Incident Responsibilities

  • May serve as the Incident Commander.

Towing and Recovery

Towing and recovery service providers are responsible for the safe and efficient removal of wrecked or disabled vehicles, and debris from the incident scene.

Towing and recovery companies are secondary responders operating under a towing arrangement usually maintained by a law enforcement agency. Towing and recovery arrangements generally fall under one of two major types rotation or contract. In rotation towing, a police department will maintain a list of pre-qualified companies and will rotate the call of those companies. In many locations, rotation lists are classified by specific company capabilities so that a company with only automobile towing equipment doesn't get called to a truck incident. Location zones may also maintain rotation lists so that companies closer to the incident scene will get called. In contract towing, companies are contracted to provide specific services on call. The contracts are often awarded through a bidding process and qualification requirements to bid may be more rigid than requirements for placement on a rotation list. The closest qualified company may also award contracts on a zone basis to help enable response.

Planned Events Responsibilities

  • Placed in pre-determined strategic locations to be ready to move disabled vehicles.
  • Use of or increase in service patrols for on-scene incident management and clearance, traffic management plan deployment, and traffic conditions monitoring.
  • Traffic incident quick clearance initiatives for rapid clearance of disabled and illegally parked or abandoned vehicles.

Unplanned Incident Responsibilities

  • Recover and remove vehicles from incident scene.
  • Protect victims' property and vehicles.
  • Remove debris from the roadway.
  • Provide other services, such as traffic control, as directed or under contract.

Venue Representatives (e.g. Arenas, Stadiums)

Planned Events Responsibilities

  • Plans the event operations logistics.
  • Initiates the event operations planning phase by notifying stakeholders.
  • Funds the deployment of equipment and personnel resources, including reimbursement of public agency resource costs, required on the day-of-event.
  • Hires a private traffic-engineering consultant to perform an event feasibility study and prepare a traffic management plan.
  • Assembles an event planning team.
  • Works to maintain interagency coordination in order to meet milestones in the advance planning process and ultimately gain stakeholder approval of the proposed transportation management plan.
  • May also fund the deployment of equipment and personnel resources, including reimbursement of public agency personnel costs, required to mitigate traffic safety, mobility, and reliability impacts during the day-of-event.
  • The event venue operator essentially represents an event organizer. These venue operators may work together with transportation agencies, law enforcement, and elected officials during the program-planning phase to develop strategies, including permanent installation of equipment for improved traffic monitor.

Unplanned Incident Responsibilities

  • Offer the venue as a shelter-in-place option

Professional Sporting Organization (e.g. National Hockey, Professional Golf)

Planned Events Responsibilities

  • Initiate the event operations planning phase by notifying stakeholders.
  • Request to public agencies for an event permit application.
  • Assembles an event planning team.
  • Governs the logistics of the planned special event.
  • Works to maintain interagency coordination in order to meet milestones in the advance planning process and ultimately gain stakeholder approval of the proposed transportation management plan.

Unplanned Incident Responsibilities

Mayor/Governor's Office

As the senior elected official, the mayor or governor will make the final decisions regarding transportation. The decision will be based on the most current information provided by the first responders in the field.

Planned Events Responsibilities

  • Establish laws and regulations toward effecting improvements in planning and managing future planned special events.
  • Create a special task force to assist event organizers and local agencies to coordinate event- planning activities.
  • May advise an event planning team on alternatives to minimize quality of life impacts on represented residents and businesses.

Unplanned Incident Responsibilities

  • On advice of appropriate public safety and emergency manager, will give the order to either evacuate or shelter-in-place.
  • Through press conferences and other public communication opportunities, will keep the public informed about the status of the event.
  • When appropriate, will ask for additional assistance from either the governor or the federal government.

Other Groups:

Public Safety Communications

Public safety communications services are the 911 call takers and dispatchers. In larger urban areas, call taking and dispatching duties may be separated. Call takers route emergency calls to appropriate dispatch. In some areas, all public safety emergency calls (police, fire and rescue, and emergency medical) are handled in one joint center with call takers sending calls to appropriate agency dispatch depending on the nature of the call. In smaller urban areas and in many rural areas, call-takers may also dispatch public safety response. Most of the larger urban areas have E911 capabilities so that call takers can obtain the location of landline 911 calls. Many rural areas do not yet have E911. Most calls on highway emergencies come from cellular telephones that are currently not able to provide location information for 911 calls.

Hazardous Materials Contractors

Hazardous materials contractors operate in a number of regions in the United States. They are hired by emergency or transportation authorities to clean up and dispose of toxic or hazardous materials. Most common (and small quantity) engine fluid spills (oil, diesel fuel, gasoline, anti- freeze, etc.) can be contained and cleaned up without calling hazardous materials contractors.

Traffic Information Media

Traffic information service providers are primarily private sector companies that gather and disseminate traffic condition information. These private providers are the primary source of information for commercial radio traffic information broadcasts, the most common source of traffic information for motorists. These companies also package specific information on a route or time of day basis to paying clients who subscribe for the information. In recent years, many Internet sites have been created to provide road condition and traffic information. A mixture of public sector agencies and private information service providers maintains these sites.

On July 21, 2000 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) designated 511 as the single travel information telephone number to be made available to states & local jurisdictions across the country. The FCC ruling leaves nearly all implementation issues & schedules to state & local agencies & telecommunications carriers. There are no Federal requirements or mandates to implement 511.

Simply stated, 511 is an easy-to-remember 3-digit telephone number, available nationwide, that provides current information about travel conditions, allowing travelers to make better choices - choice of time, choice of mode of transportation, choice of route.

Mindful of both the opportunity & challenge 511 presents, the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO), in conjunction with many other organizations including the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America), with support from the U.S. Department of Transportation, established the 511 Deployment Coalition. The goal of the 511 Deployment Coalition is "the timely establishment of a national 511 traveler information service that is sustainable and provides value to users." The intent is to implement 511 nationally using a bottom-up approach facilitated by information sharing and a cooperative dialogue through the national associations represented on the Policy Committee, the governing body of the program.

More information about 511 available from:

Planned Events Responsibilities

  • Disseminate event pre-trip travel information, in addition to real-time traffic and transit information during the day-of-event.
  • Participate in a meeting of the event planning team to obtain advance information on proposed temporary traffic control, transit, and travel demand management initiatives.

Master List of Exercise Objectives

This list of exercise objectives is from the Wisconsin Emergency Management: Tabletop Exercise Scenarios Volume 1. This list serves as a range of possible exercise objectives and should not be interpreted as meaning that every listed objective must be included in every exercise. Please select only those objectives that are related to the scope of your specific scenario.

Please note that these objectives have been superseded by the current Homeland Security Exercise Evaluation Program (HSEEP) objectives which are tied to federal exercise grant money. For information about the HSEEP objectives, please go to Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP), April 2013 http://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/20130726-1914-25045-8890/hseep_apr13_.pdf.

  1. ALERT NOTIFICATION
    • To demonstrate the ability to alert, mobilize, and activate the personnel, facilities, and systems required for emergence response, and provide for subsequent shift change staffing to maintain operations appropriate for the planned event.
  2. COMMUNICATIONS
    • To determine the ability to establish and maintain communications essential to support the planned special event
    • To demonstrate the ability to establish, use, maintain, and manage communications essential to support the planned event as well as any emergency or disaster response and recovery.
  3. COORDINATION & CONTROL
    • To determine the coordination and the effectiveness of mutual aid plans among jurisdictions or organizations as part of the implementation of the planned special event.
    • To determine the effectiveness of procedures for requesting resources from a higher level of government
    • To determine the level of cooperation and coordination among and between agencies, departments, and organizations of the jurisdiction in responding to problems associated with a major planned event.
    • To determine the ability of Transportation Management Center or Transportation Operations Center (TMC or TOC) personnel to assess events, make decisions on corrective action measures, and direct field personnel on procedures to remedy problems.
    • To determine the level of knowledge that TMC or TOC personnel possess regarding plan familiarity, changes to the transportation plan, contingency planning, and decision-making.
    • To determine the capabilities of the jurisdiction to effectively use support agencies when local forces are fully committed or incapable of providing a needed service
    • To determine the adequacy of facilities, equipment, displays, and other materials to support the planned special event
    • To determine the ability to assist activities through operations of an Incident Command System (ICS)
    • To demonstrate the adequacy of facilities, equipment, displays, and associated materials to support direction and control of planned special events.
  4. PUBLIC INFORMATION
    • To determine the capability of the public information system to provide official information and instruction to diverse populations in order to facilitate timely and appropriate public response during a planned special event
    • To demonstrate the capability to coordinate the formulation and dissemination of clear, accurate, and consistent information to the public and news media, and to control the spread of rumors that could impact on the public safety.
  5. HEALTH & MEDICAL
    • To determine the ability to protect emergency responder health and safety
    • To determine the adequacy of personnel, procedures, equipment, and vehicles for transporting injured individuals, and the adequacy of medical personnel and facilities to support the operation.
    • To demonstrate the capability to mobilize and employ health and medical resources and mitigate public health problems during a major planned event that could result in an emergency or mass disaster situation.
    • To demonstrate the capability to identify and mobilize resources and organize the delivery of crisis assistance and other human services in response to a major emergency or disaster.
  6. PUBLIC SAFETY/TRANSPORTATION
    • To direct traffic.
    • To facilitate the safe and efficient flow of traffic through traffic control and enforcement.
    • To develop and execute a street traffic management plan.
    • To manage traffic control and security on the day-of-event
    • To enforce traffic and parking restrictions
    • To escort dignitaries to/from the event venue
    • To enforce the requirements of a traffic operations agency
    • To manage transportation operations on streets adjacent to the venue and/or corridors serving the venue during planned special events.
    • For those local and county law enforcement agencies with a traffic operations bureau or for the local and/or state departments of transportation, to be responsible for developing and executing a local street traffic management plan.
    • To approve local street closures.
    • To approve an event traffic flow plan.
    • Approve temporary traffic control deployment.
    • To determine the effectiveness of search and rescue procedures during a planned special event, major emergency or disaster
    • To employ good traffic incident procedures to ensure both the safety of the responder and to ensure the safe movement of traffic
  7. PUBLIC WORKS
    • To determine the adequacy of procedures for providing to field forces such support services as food and refreshments, apparatus and equipment maintenance, sanitary facilities, and medical care.
  8. RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
    • To determine the thoroughness, usefulness, understandability, and accuracy of the transportation management plan and other key references.
    • To determine the effectiveness of procedures for deployment of emergency personnel and equipment during a planned special event
    • To determine adequacy of procedures for replacement of fatigued personnel during a planned special event.
    • To determine if a system has been developed for recruiting, training, and using volunteers during a planned special event.
    • To determine the capabilities of agencies, departments, and organizations of the jurisdiction for the effective handling of the attendees to a planned special event
    • To determine the ability of public officials to conduct their duties in accordance with standard operating procedures (SOP's), the emergency operations plan (EOP), and state statutes.
    • To demonstrate the ability to locate, mobilize, and manage (including allocation and prioritization) personnel, equipment, supplies, facilities, and services as part of a planned special event.
  9. WARNING
    • To demonstrate the capability to promptly alert and notify the public of imminent disaster or hazardous conditions and to disseminate instructional messages to the public on the basis of authority from, or decisions by, appropriate State and local officials.
  10. EFFECTIVENESS OF WARNING
    • To determine the adequacy of equipment and procedures for alerting and warning the population during a planned special event in the event of a major emergency or disaster
  11. OTHER NON-EMERGENCIES OBJECTIVES
    • To determine if officials have coordinated utility disaster plans with the local emergency operations plan.
    • To determine the capabilities of the jurisdiction to handle routine/normal incidents in addition to responding to events associated with a major emergency or disaster.
    • To determine the ability to document response to an incident/accident

NOTE: It is recommended that no more that 6 – 8 or so objectives are chosen for any one exercise.

Office of Operations