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Managing Exercises Handbook

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An exercise is a controlled, objective-driven activity used for testing, practising or evaluating processes or capabilities.

Exercises are an essential component of preparedness and should be used to enhance capability and contribute to continuous improvement. An exercise can be as simple as a planning group discussing an emergency plan, or as complex as a major multi-agency event involving several organisations and participants. Regardless of size, exercises are useful to:

  • evaluate plans
  • explore issues
  • evaluate equipment, techniques and processes
  • develop or assess competence
  • demonstrate capability
  • practise interoperability
  • validate training
  • identify gaps
  • promote awareness

Exercising is integral to the development of capability, as well as to the preparation of personnel to carry out their functions during actual events. This handbook is designed to offer a series of checklists and prompts for exercise managers and provides a number of examples to illustrate different aspects of the exercise management process. This handbook provides guidelines and a national reference for the design, planning, conduct and evaluation of exercises.

Companion resources

Handbook companion templates

For the 2023 edition of the handbook we have extracted the appendix from the 2017 and provided the templates to support the planning and delivery of exercises in a word format to improve user access and adaptability. 

These templates can be downloaded here.

Recovery Exercising Toolkit

In recent years cascading and compounding disasters across Australia have often left communities with little or no time to recover before the next disaster hits. Multiple and overlapping disasters with compounding impacts can place communities in a state of constant and complex recovery. The increasing frequency of disasters and more complex and protracted recoveries means that planning and exercising for recovery is more important than ever.

Recovery exercises provide the opportunity for a dedicated focus on recovery that goes beyond immediate relief and early recovery and allows for an in-depth exploration of recovery issues over time. The Recovery Exercising Toolkit contains evidence-based guidance and specialised resources, templates and slides that enable exercise planners to follow a guided pathway in the development and facilitation of a recovery exercise. The design and conduct of recovery exercises is based on the nationally recognised exercise management methodology, outlined in the Managing Exercises Handbook (AIDR under revision). The Toolkit can be used to support exercise management programs to include a recovery exercise component whenever exercises are conducted.

The Recovery Exercise Toolkit was developed by the National Emergency Management Agency and the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience (AIDR). The Toolkit complements the Managing Exercises (AIDR Under Review) and Community Recovery (AIDR 2018) Handbooks.