Tabletop Exercise Instructions for Planned Events and Emergencies

The US Federal Highway Administration has released a guide designed to help in conducting tabletop exercises to test the effectiveness of transportation management plans associated with planned special events. The guide may also be helpful in the management of unplanned incidents including traffic incidents and responses to emergencies.

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 minimising 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 can not 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.

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.

A copy of the guide [23 page, PDF, 160KB] is available from: http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/tabletopexercpe/tabletopexererc_pse.pdf

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