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Homeland Security


Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP)

Exercises allow homeland security and emergency management personnel, from first responders to senior officials, to train and practice prevention, protection, response, and recovery capabilities in a realistic but risk-free environment. Exercises are also a valuable tool for assessing and improving performance, while demonstrating community resolve to prepare for major incidents.

Through exercises, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Preparedness Directorate, aims to help entities obtain objective assessments of their capabilities so that gaps, deficiencies, and vulnerabilities are identified and remedied prior to a real incident.

The Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) is a capabilities and performance-based exercise program which provides a standardized policy, methodology, and terminology for exercise design, development, conduct, evaluation, and improvement planning. In addition to providing a standardized exercise policy, HSEEP also facilitates the creation of self-sustaining, capabilities-based exercise programs by providing tools and resources such as guidance, training, technology, and direct support. This blended approach to HSEEP implementation promotes exercise expertise, while advancing a standardized means of assessing and improving preparedness across the Nation.

Exercise Types

There are seven types of exercises defined within HSEEP, each of which is either discussions-based or operations-based. Discussions-based Exercises familiarize participants with current plans, policies, agreements and procedures, or may be used to develop new plans, policies, agreements, and procedures. Types of Discussion-based Exercises include:

  • Seminar. 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).
  • Workshop. A workshop resembles a seminar, but is employed to build specific products, such as a draft plan or policy (e.g., a Training and Exercise Plan Workshop is used to develop a Multi-year Training and Exercise Plan).
  • Tabletop Exercise (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. Types of Operations-based Exercises include:

  • Drill. 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 Exercise (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 does not involve any "boots on the ground" (i.e., first responders or emergency officials responding to an incident in real time).
  • Full-Scale Exercises (FSE). A full-scale exercise is a multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional, multi-discipline exercise involving functional (e.g., joint field office, emergency operation centers, etc.) and "boots on the ground" response (e.g., firefighters decontaminating mock victims).

In order for an entity to be considered HSEEP compliant it must satisfy four distinct performance requirements:

  1. Conducting an annual Training and Exercise Plan Workshop and developing and maintaining a Multi-year Training and Exercise Plan.
  2. Planning and conducting exercises in accordance with the guidelines set forth in HSEEP Volumes I-III.
  3. Developing and submitting a properly formatted After-Action Report/Improvement Plan (AAR/IP). The format for the AAR/IP is found in HSEEP Volume III.
  4. Tracking and implementing corrective actions identified in the AAR/IP.



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