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Preparing Scotland

September 2018

2. Exercise Preparation

2. Exercise Preparation

Commissioning Planning Exercise Instruction


Commissioning and Notification:

It is important that each exercise is properly commissioned by the Exercise Sponsor who will be accountable for its outcomes. Exercises that ‘fail’ to meet their aim and objectives often do so because the commissioning process was not appropriately executed, resulting in participants not being clear on what they were trying to achieve, when and why.

Commissioning is required to design the exercise so that it achieves the Sponsor’s aims. The Exercise Planner can work through the process in detail, however the Sponsor is responsible for signing off the initial Business Case or Project Initiation Document (PID) which should address the following questions:

  • Who is sponsoring the exercise?
  • Is it being run as one in a series of exercises and, if so, what series?


  • What is the aim of the exercise?
  • Has the aim been agreed by the Sponsor?
  • Has it been agreed by all participating agencies?


  • What will the overarching objectives be?


Note: If individual groups or agencies set their own objectives these must not contradict or compromise the overall objectives.

  • What are your success criteria? How is it going to be measured?


Overall, are your objectives SMARTER:



What are the exercise aims and objectives?


How will you measure and demonstrate success?


What type of exercise is best and fit for purpose?


Will the exercise scenario and resources deliver?


Are the timescales appropriate?


What is the best evaluation method?


How is the exercise going to be debriefed and lessons


  • Who should be exercised?
  • Have the individuals’ needs and any equalities issues been considered at the outset?
  • Who will run the exercise? Planning and Directing Staff need to be agreed as part of the commissioning process.
  • Who will validate/assess the exercise preparation and play?
  • Who will produce the post exercise report on behalf of the Sponsor?
  • Who is to receive the report(s)?


  • How does the exercise fit within the local, RRP or national exercise programmes? Is it part of a series of exercises?
  • How does it relate to the training of those being exercised?


  • What type of exercise is it?
  • What scale of exercise is it?


  • When will the exercise take place? Define the time line and milestones.


  • Where will the exercise take place?
  • Who owns the estate or property?
  • Is the estate or property available at the time planned?


  • What constraints are placed upon the exercise in terms of:
    • Availability of resources
    • Finances
    • Estate and property
    • Security and disclosure
    • Technical
    • Time
    • Practical
    • Disruptions to service/ business continuity.

Answering these questions should guide how the next phase of exercise planning proceeds. As planning progresses, especially if the exercise is planned over a long period of time, it is essential that the exercise team continually revisit the answers to the above questions in order to ensure that their planning remains focused.


Exercise Name

Exercises should be given a unique name for easy reference. Wherever possible, the name should normally consist of two words to distinguish it from a police operation. When the exercise is part of a series it may be desirable to link them with a colour (for example oil pollution exercises in the Firth of Forth Area are prefixed with Black) or simply a number/year.



Notification involves letting the relevant organisations and groups know an exercise is being planned so that any conflicts with other exercises or priorities can be quickly identified. Early notification is essential to ensure buy-in, resourcing and identification of the right individuals is achieved from all the relevant organisations are involved.

Each of the 3 RRPs in Scotland have notification processes and protocols which must be followed. The Scottish Multi-Agency Resilience Training and Exercising Unit (SMARTEU) needs to be notified of any exercises involving Police, Fire or Ambulance.

Before completing an Exercise Notification Form it is vital that consideration is given to already planned exercises and events. An understanding of the current and planned exercise programmes will assist ‘place in context’ the proposed exercise. It may also help identify planned exercises that may be able to assist met the proposed exercise aim and objectives, rather than require a separate exercise.

To confirm the exercise programme and notification processes relevant to your proposed exercise, the email contact addresses for the 3 RRPs and SMARTEU are provided below:


Commissioning Planning Exercise Instruction


The Planning Process

The actual mechanics of the process are likely to differ from exercise to exercise depending on how the planner decides to work. However, the principles of planning should remain constant. It relies on ensuring the objectives run through the exercise and inform its content and conduct from planning to the publication of the Post Exercise Report. Health and Safety, equality and diversity should be embedded in all stages of the planning process.

It can be easy for exercises to grow through ‘mission creep’ or for scenarios to inadvertently lead to the examination of issues or procedures out-with the intended scope of the exercise. It is therefore advisable for planning to adhere to the following order:

  1. Aim
  2. Objectives
  3. Effects required and appropriate scenario to test/ assess each objective.
  4. Assessment method and collection plan.
    Exercise roles.
  5. Main Events List and Timeline


Functions of the Planning Group

The planning group should meet as early as possible to discuss the answers to the questions raised in the previous stage. The meeting should be chaired by the Exercise Director or a representative of the Exercise Sponsor, and should involve representation from each agency. If the proposed exercise is a complex one this meeting should also be used to consider whether to create sub-groups to take forward particular functions of the planning process.


Overall Responsibilities of the Planning Group
  • Where applicable coordinate the work of the function sub-groups
  • Ensure appropriate integration and alignment with exercise programme
  • Develop exercise activities that will test or assess each objective
  • Develop an assessment method for each objective
  • Assign Directing Staff to the assessment of exercise play/objectives/events
  • Decide what play during the exercise will be notional
  • Health & Safety
  • Consideration of equality, diversity and dignity issues.


Production of Exercise Material
  • The scenario
  • The Main Events List (MEL) - sometimes referred to as Sequence of Events (SoE)
  • Information injects
  • Timeline
  • Additional information such as - press cuttings, media footage, photographic materials, radio transmissions etc.


Considerations for the scenario are set out in Annex C - Scenario Considerations


Logistics Coordination
  • Planning, booking, purchasing, hiring and putting into place all of the resources and infrastructure required for the exercise
  • Conduct a 'reconnaissance' of all locations, routes etc.
  • Coordinate the logistics input from all of the agencies or groups involved
  • Coordinate or put into place a health, safety and welfare support system for those involved including:
    • Feeding (including dietary needs)
    • Water
    • Accommodation
    • Provision of first aid, and
    • Consideration of diversity issues.
  • Coordinate any transport and drivers required to support the exercise
  • Identify any VIPs that may visit and their programme in advance


  • Taking notes from planning meetings and publishing minutes which identify who is actioning what and by when
  • Issuing invitations for the exercise
  • Producing name badges and registers
  • Collating all documents produced for the exercise
  • Issuing the exercise directives and instruction
  • Maintaining a list of all those involved
  • Gathering Post Exercise Report points
  • Publishing the Post Exercise Report.



Risks should be properly assessed and recorded as part of the exercise planning process. Common risks to a successful exercise can include:

  • Disruption from severe weather
  • Loss of key participants
  • Loss of location
  • Communication failures
  • External disruptive or conflicting events.


It is good practice to identify and record the risks including consideration of their probability/likelihood and impact along with control measures or mitigation which has been put in place.


Please see Annex D - Exercise Risk Assessment


Systems Communications
  • Responsible for the means by which those being exercised and those supporting the exercise will communicate - communication may be by radio, telephone, IT systems or video
  • Production of the Systems Communications Plan and Systems Communications Map, which should include communication of participants and exercise staff
  • Conducting a check on connectivity and transmission/reception for anticipated use of communication networks
  • Coordinating the communications staff of the various agencies
  • Communications protocol
  • Ensuring that groups and agencies are able to communicate
  • Replicating or simulating communication systems where required
  • Providing technical support during the exercise
  • Providing technical communications input to the post exercise report
  • It is important that the duties are carried out by an individual/s that has the technical competence to understand the systems and processes involved.


Public/ Media Communications
  • In addition to public information and media play as part of the exercise (see Annex C - Scenario Considerations) it may be necessary to consider the publicity of the exercise and if the exercise is likely to come to the attention of the media or public early engagement is recommended
  • Devise the exercise communications plan and real-world communications activity if necessary
  • Where possible, public/ media communications experts should be involved from early in the planning process.

Note: In the case of smaller exercises individuals will usually be responsible for completing multiple functions. However, it is important that responsibilities and the division of tasks are clear to those involved.



As a general principle, exercises should be designed, planned and delivered on a co-production basis with the costs of participants being met by their own organisation. However, it is recognised that specific arrangements for cost recovery may be in place within RRPs, agencies and organisations. On such occasions the staff costs associated with planning, delivery and debriefing/report writing along with the costs of participants and other non- staff costs such as accommodation or materials should be fully recorded.


Health and Safety

Key Health and Safety considerations are set out in Annex E - Health and Safety Considerations.


Commissioning Planning Exercise Instruction


Exercise Instruction

The Exercise Instruction is an important document that should be issued to those running the exercise as well as those being exercised. However, different groups of individuals are likely to require different levels of information and therefore it is recommended that much of the content is detailed within different annexes. The various annexes should then only be distributed to those who need them.



Annex F - Exercise Instruction Guidelines

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