Workshops, Drills & Exercises

Workshops, Drills & Exercises: What’s the Difference?   HSEEP_graphic

These participatory events are an important part of the Homeland Security Exercise & Evaluation Program (HSEEP) “Exercise Cycle”. Exercises play a vital role in community emergency preparedness by enabling stakeholders to test and validate plans and capabilities, and identify both capability gaps and areas for improvement. Exercises allow us to practice and improve our capacity to be prepared for emergencies.

  • Discussion-based Exercises familiarize participants with current plans, policies, agreements and procedures, or may be used to develop new plans, policies, agreements, and procedures.
    • Seminars: A seminar is an informal discussion, designed to orient participants to new or updated plans, policies, or procedures (e.g., a seminar to review a new Evacuation Standard Operating Procedure).
    • Workshops: A workshop resembles a seminar, but is employed to build specific products, such as a new standard operating procedure (SOP), or a mutual aid agreement.
    • Tabletop Exercises (TTX): A tabletop exercise involves key personnel discussing simulated scenarios in an informal setting. TTXs can be used to assess plans, policies, and procedures.
    • Games: A game is a simulation of operations that often involves two or more teams, usually in a competitive environment, using rules, data, and procedure designed to depict an actual or assumed real-life situation.
  • Operations-based Exercises validate plans, policies, agreements and procedures, clarify roles and responsibilities, and identify resource gaps in an operational environment.
    • Drills: A drill is a coordinated, supervised activity usually employed to test a single, specific operation or function within a single entity (e.g., a fire department conducts a decontamination drill).
    • Functional Exercises (FE): A functional exercise examines and/or validates the coordination, command, and control between various multi-agency coordination centers (e.g., emergency operation center, joint field office, etc.). A functional exercise is conducted in a realistic, real-time environment, however, movement of personnel and equipment is usually simulated.
    • Full-Scale Exercises (FSE): A full-scale exercise is a multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional, multi-discipline exercise involving a functional response (e.g., joint field office, emergency operation centers, etc.) operating under cooperative systems such as the Incident Command System (ICS) or Unified Command. Personnel and resources may be mobilized and deployed to the scene, where actions are performed as if a real incident had occurred.


Homeland Security Exercise & Evaluation Program (HSEEP)
California Hospital Association