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Customize a Tabletop Exercise

5. You can alter or change the exercises on this CD to suit your purposes by accessing the source files included for each exercise on this CD. These files are in Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Feel free to edit these source files to make the exercises more applicable to your local or regional setting (if you do not own some of these software packages, you will not be able to edit certain source files). You can also use your own water distribution maps and town or city road maps to replace the Zenith City maps included on this CD. In the "simple" tabletop exercises, feel free to omit "injects" as necessary due to time constraints or to help simplify the exercise or ensuing discussions. In addition, you may use the structure of any of the exercises as a model or road map to create your own "simple" or "enhanced" tabletop exercise scenario.

To create your own scenario, brainstorm how the exercise scenario will be initiated, how it will unfold, and how it will end. At the end of this session, you will have your scenario outlined, a rough exercise timeline constructed, and a list of needed props or "injects." While brainstorming for an "enhanced" tabletop exercise, envision all the potential reactions that exercise participants may have, and develop props or "injects" to guide those reactions to ensure that you test what you want to test and to ensure that your exercise objectives will be met. This thinking through of potential reactions is especially important when creating an "enhanced" tabletop exercise, as the participants will determine, to a large extent, how the exercise will unfold.

Example: Let’s say that in your enhanced tabletop exercise you expected the water or wastewater utility to notify the police of a certain event that occurred during the course of the exercise; however, the utility did not make the expected notification. A well-timed “leak” to the media, represented by a “media alert” inject read to all participants, would effectively notify the police that an event has occurred at the water or wastewater utility and keep the exercise on track.

If you are developing a simple tabletop exercise, this process is very streamlined as you will be able to control the participants’ discussion during the course of the exercise. Therefore, you will not have to be too concerned with unexpected participant reactions and you will be able to move smoothly from inject to inject.

The remaining steps apply to the development of enhanced tabletop exercises:

6. If you are developing an enhanced tabletop exercise, draw up your floor plan. A sample floor plan is provided in the exercise materials. The floor plan will help you to visualize the individual and agency roles you will have represented during the exercise. This will also give you an idea of the minimum amount of people you will need to run the exercise effectively. As a general rule, each table or role should have a minimum of two people. This allows discussion to take place within a table or role prior to decisions being made. Don’t forget that as a controller you will be representing the control, probably the media (see #9 below), and potentially the lab role within an exercise.

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