A Situation Manual (SitMan) is a participant handbook for tabletop exercises. It provides background information on exercise scope, schedule, and objectives. It also presents the scenario narrative that will drive participant discussions during the exercise. The SitMan supports the scenario narrative and allows participants to read along while watching the multimedia events unfold. All participants (e.g., players, facilitators, evaluators, and observers) should receive a SitMan at the beginning of the exercise. Consideration should be given to the accessibility of presentations and documents, such as making information available in alternative formats (e.g., large prints, compact disk [CD], Braille, closed captioning or another form of text display, or the provision of sign language interpreters) as necessary.
The introduction to the SitMan provides an overview of the exercise—including scope, capabilities, tasks and objectives, structure, rules, and conduct—as well as an exercise agenda. The next section of the SitMan is the scenario itself, which is divided up into distinct modules. Modules provide the basic structure of the exercise and are chronologically sequenced. Each module represents a specific time segment of the overall scenario—pre-incident warning, notification, response, or recovery—selected based on exercise objectives and scenario requirements. For example, pandemic disease exercises typically contain an incubation module, whereas chemical or explosive terrorism scenarios offer planners the opportunity to include a warning phase and initial response modules.
Each module is followed by discussion questions, usually divided up by organizational group (e.g., public safety, emergency management, public affairs). Responses to the modules’ discussion questions are the focus of the exercise, and reviewing them provides the basis for evaluating exercise results. The SitMan contains greater detail than the discussion-based exercise’s multimedia presentation and generally includes the following information:
- Schedule of events
- Exercise purpose, scope, capabilities, tasks, and objectives
- Exercise structure (e.g., order of the modules)
- Instructions for exercise facilitators, players, and observers
- Exercise assumptions and artificialities
- Exercise rules
- Exercise scenario background (including scenario location information)
- Discussion questions and key issues
- Reference appendices with relevant supporting information, which may include, but not be limited to: entity and threat-specific information; Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) or agent fact sheet, when applicable; relevant documents regarding plans, Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), etc.; and a list of reference terms.
Exercise Evaluation Guides
Exercise Evaluation Guides, or EEGs help evaluators collect and interpret relevant exercise observations. EEGs provide evaluators with information on what tasks they should expect to see accomplished or discussed during an exercise, space to record observations, and questions to address after the exercise as a first step in the analysis process and development of the After Action Report / Improvement Plan (AAR/IP).
Multimedia presentations (PowerPoint) are often used for discussion-based exercises to provide the general scenario. They are given at the start of the exercise (StartEx) and provide visual and audio support to the SitMan. Participants read the written material while watching or listening to the presentation. The presentation itself should concisely summarize information contained in the written documentation. Like the SitMan, the multimedia presentation is also divided into distinct, chronologically segmented modules that, when combined, create the entire scenario.
This presentation typically contains, at a minimum, the following information:
- Background/history on the threat and the scenario
- Exercise objectives
- Exercise play rules and administrative information
- Modules that describe the scenario