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Sport organizations conduct exercise plans to ensure proper incident response

This is an excerpt from Security Management for Sports and Special Events by Stacey Hall,Walter Cooper,Lou Marciani & Jim McGee.

Sport and event organizations should conduct exercises to test plans and promote awareness of staff roles and responsibilities during an incident scenario. “An exercise is a focused practice activity that places the participants in a simulated situation requiring them to function in the capacity that would be expected of them in a real event” (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2008a, p. 2). After sport or event facility managers have assessed risks, developed necessary plans and policies, and trained their staff members, they should consider testing their operational plans to assess their level of preparedness. Exercises improve readiness by evaluating operations and plans and reinforcing the concept of teamwork. Exercises help facility managers to (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2009b)

  • clarify roles and responsibilities,
  • improve interagency coordination and communication,
  • reveal resource gaps,
  • develop individual performance,
  • identify opportunities for improvement, and
  • gain program recognition and support of administration.

This chapter outlines the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The importance of exercising plans and the types of exercises available to the sport or event manager are presented. These include discussion-based exercises (i.e., seminars, workshops, and tabletop exercises) and operations-based exercises (i.e., drills and full-scale exercises).

Successful responses to emergencies in the past have demonstrated the value of exercising and its positive effect on response efforts when an incident occurs. For example, in 2000, Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Task Forces participated in two major exercises: an earthquake scenario in California and a building collapse scenario through a planned demolition of a Denver sport arena. In 2001 some of these same US&R Task Forces were sent to New York to search for victims after the collapse of the World Trade Center towers during the 9/11 terrorist attacks (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2008a). Responders typically respond to incidents in the way in which they have been trained. Similar to sport teams, responders practice their plans and schemes to ensure effective implementation on game day. Exercises are an opportunity to observe operations, test capabilities, identify gaps, and address issues before the emergency incident occurs.

Exercises are the only practical, efficient and proven method by which management and safety personnel can test and validate planned arrangements and procedures. As the inquiries into various disasters have repeatedly confirmed, untested plans are likely to fail at the crucial moment. (Football Licensing Authority, 2007, p. 3)

Exercises are not a one-time event; they must be conducted on a continuous basis to address the changing elements of the industry—evolving threats, new plans and procedures, new equipment, training new personnel, and so on (see figure 8.1).

Because the financial impact and potential loss of life from disasters are significant, many industry governing bodies have mandated preparedness training and exercising requirements. In the United States, nuclear power plants must exercise their plans annually and conduct a full-scale exercise (FSE) every two years that is evaluated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Airports, hospitals, and health care facilities must conduct an FSE every two years to maintain a license to operate. Additionally, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires many employers to develop an emergency action plan (EAP) and exercise it at least annually (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2008a). In the sport and event industry, however, no government mandates require organizations to conduct specific training and exercises. After 9/11, most sport governing bodies enhanced security efforts by developing best practices for their league members that often includes having adequately trained and exercised staff.

Types of Exercises

The Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (2007a) defined seven types of exercises that are considered either discussion based or operations based (see table 8.1 on page 136).

Discussion-Based Exercises

Discussion-based exercises familiarize participants with current plans and policies, or they may be used to develop new plans and policies. Facilitators or presenters usually lead the discussion, keeping participants on track toward meeting exercise objectives. Discussion-based exercises are normally used as a starting point in the building-block approach of escalating exercise complexity. Types of discussion-based exercises include seminars, workshops, tabletop exercises, and game simulations (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2007a):

  • Seminars use a number of instructional strategies such as lecture, panel discussions, case studies, and multimedia presentations. Seminars are informal and productive for small and large groups and are usually used for orientation to
    organizational policies and procedures, protocols, response resources, or concepts and ideas. Orientations normally last a maximum of one to two hours.
  • Workshops increase participant interaction and are effective for solving complex problems, team building, information sharing, and brainstorming. Workshops differ from seminars in that they emphasize producing a product or goal such as a new policy or plan (e.g., emergency action plans [EAPs], mutual aid agreements, and standard operating procedures [SOPs]). Workshops also involve greater participant discussion and often uses breakout sessions to explore parts of an issue with smaller groups.
  • Tabletop exercises (TTXs) consist of informal facilitated discussions of simulated emergencies among key personnel. Basic TTXs involve a constant, unchanging simulation, whereas advanced TTXs present the group with inserts (messages) that progress the initial scenario. TTXs are a useful tool for facility managers who want to assess current plans and identify gaps in security operations. The purpose of a TTX is to test existing plans without incurring costs associated with deploying resources. The TTX can involve many people and many organizations who can contribute to the planned discussion items, typically those entities with a planning, policy, or response role. A TTX usually lasts one to four hours. A sample TTX is provided in appendix 8.1.
  • Game simulations are computer simulations of operations that involve two or more teams, usually in a competitive environment, using rules, data, and procedure designed to depict an actual or assumed real-life situation. Simulations conduct what-if analyses of existing plans and potential strategies without deploying resources to explore the processes and consequences of decision making. For example, participants are able to respond to a bomb explosion in a stadium by deciding how to allocate personnel and resources and how to evacuate spectators safely.

Operations-Based Exercises

Operations-based exercises are more complex than discussion-based exercises. Operations-based exercises represent the next level of the exercise cycle. They are used to validate the plans, policies, agreements, and procedures solidified in discussion-based exercises. Operations-based exercises validate plans and policies, clarify roles, and identify resource gaps in security operations. Operations-based exercises normally involve the deployment of resources and personnel. Operations-based exercises include drills, functional exercises (FEs), and full-scale exercises (FSEs) (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2007a):

  • Drills are coordinated, supervised activities used to test a specific operation orfunction within the organization. Participants may gain training on new equipment, practice, and maintain skills. An example of a drill run by a sport or event organization may be to test the stadium's alert and notification system. Management tests the alert system and staff members respond accordingly, depending on the situation. For example, if a tornado is approaching, spectators must seek shelter, so staff members need to relocate spectators to a covered section of the facility. Staff members would then assume their designated positions and act as if the alert were real. This type of drill is conducted without requesting additional resources (as would happen in a full-scale exercise). The time required to conduct a drill operation is usually one half to two hours.
  • Functional exercises (FEs) examine and validate the coordination, command, and control between various agencies responding to an incident. This exercise involves a simulated deployment of resources and personnel in a highly stressful environment requiring rapid problem solving. Functional exercises can be used to evaluate management of emergency operations centers (EOC) and facility command posts. An FE normally requires three to eight hours to complete.
  • Full-scale exercises (FSEs) are multiagency, multijurisdictional exercises involving a functional “boots on the ground” response. Real-world deployment of assets occurs in support of the exercise scenario. Participants are able to assess plans and evaluate coordinated responses under crisis conditions. An FSE may be designed to last two to four hours or as long as a day or more. An example of a full-scale exercise scenario can be viewed at

Read more from Security Management for Sports and Special Events by Stacey Hall, Walter Cooper, Lou Marciani, Jim McGee.

More Excerpts From Security Management for Sports and Special Events