Unit 7: The Full-Scale
This unit focuses on the full-scale exercise. We will look closely at the
characteristics of the full-scale exercise?how it differs from the other
types of exercises, who participates, the role of the EOC, and key design
considerations. At the end of the unit, you will develop an action plan for
later use in designing a full-scale exercise for your organization.
Unit 7 Objectives
After completing this unit, you should be able to:
? Describe the purpose and characteristics of a full-scale exercise.
? Explain how designing a full-scale exercise differs from designing a
? Identify planning considerations for site selection and scene
management for a full-scale exercise.
Exercise Design Page 7.1
What Is a Full-Scale Exercise?
A full-scale exercise is as close to the real thing as possible. It is a lengthy
exercise which takes place on location, using?as far as possible?the equipment
and personnel that would be called upon in a real event.
In a sense, a full-scale exercise combines the interactivity of the functional
exercise with a field element. It differs from a drill in that a drill focuses on a
single operation and exercises only one organization.
Eventually, every emergency response organization must hold a full-scale
exercise because it is necessary at some point to test capabilities in an
environment as near to the real one as possible.
However, there is more to a full-scale exercise than just practice in the field. As
we discussed in Unit 1, various regulatory agencies have requirements for full-
scale exercises which must be satisfied. In order to receive FEMA credit, for
example, a full-scale exercise must fulfill three requirements:
? It must exercise most functions.
? It must coordinate the efforts of several agencies.
? In order to achieve full coordination, the EOC must be activated.
Exercise Design Page 7.2
Activity: Know Your Regulatory Requirements Activity
Answer the following questions about your own organization. If you are not
sure of the answer, this question may require some research. You are
encouraged to find the answers now, before continuing with the unit.
Understanding your organization’s requirements will provide an important
foundation for the concepts covered in this unit.
1. What agencies or groups impose exercise requirements or guidelines
on your organization?
2. What do they require concerning full-scale exercises? (Consider
scope, frequency, numbers of organizations involved, coordination,
communication, documentation, evaluation, or other issues.)
Exercise Design Page 7.3
What Is a Full-Scale Exercise? (Continued)
The key characteristics of full-scale exercises were discussed in Unit 2. Below is
a brief summary of the main points.
? Interactive exercise, designed to challenge the entire emergency
management system in a highly realistic and stressful environment.
? Tests and evaluates most functions of the emergency management
plan or operational plan.
? Takes place in an EOC or other operating center and at field sites.
? Achieves realism through:
? On-scene actions and decisions.
? Simulated “victims.”
? Search and rescue requirements.
? Communication devices.
? Equipment deployment.
? Actual resource and personnel allocation.
? Involves controller(s), players, simulators (different from simulators
in a functional exercise), and evaluators.
? Players represent all levels of personnel, including response
? Messages may be visual (e.g., staged scenes, made-up victims, props)
? All decisions and actions by players occur in real time and generate
real responses and consequences from other players.
? Requires significant investment of time, effort, and resources (1 to 1?
years to develop a complete exercise package). Attention to detail is
Exercise Design Page 7.4
What Is a Full-Scale Exercise? (Continued)
The Purpose of Full-Scale Exercises
There are numerous reasons for conducting a full-scale exercise. A full-scale exercise:
? Greatly expands the scope and visibility of the exercise program.
? If well-planned, can attract public attention and raise credibility.
(However, to be successful, it must be the culmination of a
comprehensive and progressive exercise program that has been
developed as the organizational capacity has grown.)
? Is useful to test total coordination, not only among policy and
coordination officials, but among field forces. At the same time, it can
test interorganizational coordination.
? Enables a jurisdiction or emergency management system to evaluate its
ability to perform many functions at once.
? Can pinpoint resource and personnel capabilities and reveal shortfalls.
What Does It Take to Run a Full-Scale Exercise?
Some people wrongly believe that, once started, a full-scale exercise can run on its own steam. In fact, a full-scale exercise requires a substantial
commitment of time, money, personnel, and expertise and should not be
undertaken without the necessary preparation. These are the most
? Substantial experience with preparatory exercises of various
kinds?drills, tabletops, and functional exercises.
? Total commitment of all emergency service organizations.
? Support from the chief elected and/or appointed officials.
? Adequate physical facilities, including space for the EOC and field
? Adequate communication facilities (e.g., radios and telephones).
? Plans in place to handle costs (both evident and hidden), labor, time
Exercise Design Page 7.5
? Carefully thought out and planned site and logistics.
Exercise Design Page 7.6
Activity: Compare Functional and Full-Scale Exercises Activity
In the following table, compare functional and full-scale exercises by writing a
brief description in each of the cells.
Degree of Realism
Who Takes Part
Test Adequacy of Resources
Test Decision-Making Process
Exercise Design Page 7.7
Activity: Compare Functional and Full-Scale Exercises (Continued)
As realistic as possible without As realistic as possible; resources Degree of Realism
deploying resources deployed
Interactive; simulators deliver Interactive; simulators play roles at Format/Structure
“problem messages,” players the scene, players respond
respond in real time
Tense, stressful Highly tense, stressful Atmosphere
Controller players (policy, Controller(s), players (all levels), Who Takes Part
coordination, operations), simulators, evaluators
Controller Controller(s) Who Leads
EOC or other operations center EOC and field site(s) Where Held
No Yes Equipment Deployed
Yes Yes Test Coordination
Yes Yes Test Adequacy of Resources
Yes Yes Test Decision-Making Process
Large scale; complex format; Very large scale; highly complex; Relative Complexity/Cost
moderate cost high cost
Yes Yes Formal Evaluation
Exercise Design Page 7.8
Full-Scale Exercise Roles
Full-scale exercises involve one or more controllers, the participants, simulators,
evaluators, and a safety officer.
One or more controllers manage the exercise. In some exercises, where
there are multiple sites or organizations, there may be more than one
controller. In this case, all of the controllers cooperate under the direction
of a chief controller.
The controller (or chief controller) is responsible for ensuring that the exercise
starts on schedule. The controller also designates an exercise control point from
which all communications should be monitored.
A full-scale exercise involves all levels of personnel, including:
? Policy makers—those who are responsible for making broad policy
decisions. They might include the chief executive and his or her staff,
the Public Information Officer, the emergency manager, key
department heads, and other elected officials.
? Coordination personnel—people from various departments who
coordinate decisions of policy makers and make plans for resources.
? Operations personnel—those who carry out the directives.
Sometimes coordination and operations are the same.
? Field personnel—fire, police, EMS, search and rescue, volunteer
groups, representatives of private enterprises who participate in the
response, and many others.
Exercise Design Page 7.9