>Table Top Exercise: The Jewel of Preparedness Activities

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By CAPT David Haynes, Chief of Prevention, Fifth Coast Guard District

A Table Top Exercise (TTX) is a walk-through/talk -through activity designed to gather the key members of a response organization and stakeholders to game out and discuss actions to be taken when conducting a response. In addition, a well-designed TTX allows participants to apply their response skills and knowledge and to alleviate response problems, quickly highlighting deficiencies and exposing weaknesses “before” an actual response operation does it for you, which is too late by then.

Before conducting a TTX, thorough response planning should occur, which is the backbone of response oriented strategic thinking and development of critical success factors and objectives. Subsequently, response plan training should follow response plan development because it allows the response organization to examine and provide the skills necessary to achieve the desired response. At some point, a boots-on-the-ground exercise may be necessary to provide another level of critical response oriented feedback, which adds huge value to your response capacity and capability.

TTX’s are easily designed and highly cost effective and can greatly enhance your organization’s response capability. And…TTX’s can be done more frequently. When “table topping” a developed plan, you can expose the plan’s weaknesses, identify resource and training deficiencies, clarify roles and responsibilities, and improve cooperation with other response agencies.

The old adage is: Plan, Train, Exercise, Execute, a sequence of preparedness that is tried and true. Therefore, a TTX (or multiple TTX’s) is truly a contingency preparedness jewel because it can be a quick reality check at any point short of “Execute.”