Although 2023 may be coming to a close, many are already counting down the days to 2024 and deciding on their New Year’s resolutions. Exercise, as always, will surely top the list, even for state, local, tribal, and territorial governments (SLTTs) looking to improve emergency preparedness in the months ahead. They know that the best way to determine the viability of their continuity of operations plans or emergency operations plans (COOPs or EOPs) is to test them and make improvements if needed. 

FEMA describes exercises as events that allow participants to apply their skills and knowledge to improve operational readiness and planners to evaluate the effectiveness of previously conducted tests and training activities. The goal of the exercises is to strengthen an agency’s mission capability and, ultimately, the resilience of the communities it serves.    

Several types of COOP and/or EOP-related exercises are explained below. Still, the ones by an organization should be based upon specific testing, training, and exercise program goals.  

  1. Seminars: Informal discussions designed to orient participants to new or updated plans, policies, or procedures 
  2. Workshops: Similar to seminars, but intended to build specific products, such as a draft plan or a training and exercise schedule 
  3. Tabletop exercises: Discussion-based, low-stress exercises where a facilitator guides team members through discussions about their roles and responses to one or more scenarios 
  4. Functional exercises: Operations-based exercises that allow personnel to validate plans and organizational readiness by performing their duties in a simulated operational environment 
  5. Full-scale exercises: Operations-based, high-stress exercises that involve real-time operations movement of personnel and resources to validate plans, policies, and procedures 

As for the frequency of conducting either (or both) discussions and operations-based exercises, once per year is the norm