EMI Launches its Virtual Tabletop Exercise Series in September 2012
FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI) recently hosted the first in a monthly series of Virtual Tabletop Exercise (VTTX) using a video teleconference platform to reach training audiences around the country and provide a virtual forum for disaster training.
The VTTX process involves key personnel from the emergency management community of practice reviewing a pre-packaged set of exercise materials then convening for a four hour tabletop exercise discussing a simulated disaster scenario. The event allows the connected sites to assess current plans, policies and procedures while learning from the other connected sites as they provide their perspective and practices facing a similar situation.
The first event was built around an earthquake scenario. Future months will feature different hazard scenarios to engage and challenge organizations and communities to work together in a whole community fashion.
Participants in the September 5th, 2012 event included state, and local emergency management organizations from Alabama, California, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, Texas, and Washington State. This diverse group provided great perspective and insight to approaches in response to and recovery from an earthquake incident.
Following the VTTX event, Ethan Billigmeier, the Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for Tuolumne County, California Public Health reflected on the experience. “The FEMA Virtual Tabletop series offered Tuolumne County the opportunity to participate in exercises with other states and jurisdictions that would have otherwise been impossible. We were able to test our plans, work through technological issues, and learn from others in a way that was unique and engaging.
Billigmeiser also commented on the aspect of learning from others by adding "everyone who attended our exercise commented that they felt hearing from other states was a huge help in gauging how prepared we are and what areas we need to improve on. It also gave an opportunity to hear from diverse response groups and take away important lessons learned that would not have happened in a conventional exercise format".
James Kelley III, the State Exercise Officer, Texas Department of Public Safety Texas, Division of Emergency Management added "With dwindling budgets, anything we can do to extend the reach of preparedness activities into local communities is a good thing and the FEMA Virtual Tabletop Series (VTTX) allowed us to do just that. Although it was just the first offering, immediate feedback has been extremely positive and FEMA EMI did a fantastic job facilitating and delivering a perfectly sized program."
Kelley reported that "midway through the VTTX, Regional State Coordinator, Phillip Mongeau provided a glowing update to the Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd who promptly responded, "Great work, let's do more!" We highly recommend the FEMA VTTX to all states, it's a force multiplier for any State exercise program and we give the VTTX program two enthusiastic thumbs up!”
The Emergency Management Institute looks forward to the next VTTX event built around a winter storm scenario on October 19, 2012. Training Opportunities will go out in advance of each VTTX to all training partners.
Questions concerning the VTTX series can be directed to Todd Wheeler, EMI Training Specialist at 301-447- 1101 or Todd.Wheeler@fema.dhs.gov