Crisis management exercises are an essential component of any organization’s preparedness strategy.

These exercises allow teams to test their crisis response plans, identify areas for improvement, and build the skills and confidence needed to respond effectively to a crisis. One type of exercise that is particularly useful for this purpose is the functional exercise. 

A functional exercise is a type of tabletop exercise that simulates the operational response to a crisis situation. It involves a group of participants working through a scenario that is designed to test specific aspects of the crisis management plan, such as communication, decision-making, and resource management. Unlike other types of exercises, such as full-scale drills or simulations, a functional exercise focuses on specific functions or processes within the organization, rather than testing the entire response plan. 

Related: CC Series Short: Functional Exercise Objectives

The Five Benefits of Functional Exercises  

There are several benefits to using functional exercises as part of a crisis management program. Here are a few reasons why you should consider incorporating them into your preparedness strategy: 

  1. Testing specific functions: One of the primary benefits of a functional exercise is that it allows teams to test specific functions or processes within the organization. This can be particularly useful for identifying areas of weakness or inefficiency in the crisis management plan. For example, a functional exercise focused on communication might test how quickly and effectively the team can share information with key stakeholders during a crisis. 
  1. Realistic simulation: Another benefit of a functional exercise is that it can provide a realistic simulation of a crisis situation. By using real-world scenarios and data, teams can gain a better understanding of how a crisis might unfold and how they can best respond. This can help build confidence and improve decision-making during an actual crisis. 
  1. Targeted improvement: Because a functional exercise is designed to test specific functions or processes, it can provide targeted feedback for improvement. Teams can use the results of the exercise to identify areas where additional training or resources may be needed, or to refine specific aspects of the crisis management plan. 
  1. Cost-effective: Functional exercises are typically less expensive and resource-intensive than full-scale drills or simulations. They can be conducted in a tabletop format, which eliminates the need for expensive equipment or facilities. This makes functional exercises an accessible option for organizations of all sizes and budgets. 
  1. Team building: Finally, functional exercises can be a valuable team-building activity. By working together to respond to a crisis scenario, teams can build trust, improve communication, and develop a shared understanding of the crisis management plan. This can help improve overall preparedness and response capabilities. 

The Process to Designing Functional Exercises  

Now that we’ve explored the benefits of functional exercises, let’s take a closer look at how to design and conduct one. Here are some steps to follow: 

  1. Identify the objectives: The first step in designing a functional exercise is to identify the specific objectives you want to achieve. This might include testing specific functions or processes within the crisis management plan, or identifying areas for improvement. 
  1. Develop the scenario: Once you have identified your objectives, you can develop a scenario that is tailored to your organization’s needs. The scenario should be realistic and relevant to your industry or sector, and should be designed to test the specific functions or processes you have identified. 
  1. Define the roles: Next, you will need to define the roles and responsibilities for the exercise. This might include assigning roles to participants, such as incident commander, public information officer, or safety officer. 
  1. Conduct the exercise: During the exercise, participants should work through the scenario in a tabletop format. The facilitator should guide the discussion, asking questions and prompting participants to make decisions based on the scenario. 
  1. Debrief and evaluate: After the exercise, it is important to debrief and evaluate the results. This might include soliciting feedback from participants, identifying areas for improvement, and developing an action plan to address any deficiencies. 

In conclusion, functional exercises are an effective to validate your organizations response to emergency situations by practicing actual processes and communications.

If you are considering a Functional Exercise, feel free to contact us for a quote.  

Rob Burton
Rob Burton

Rob is a Principal at PreparedEx where he manages a team of crisis preparedness professionals and has over 20 years of experience preparing for and responding to crises. Part of his leadership role includes assisting PreparedEx clients in designing, implementing and evaluating crisis, emergency, security and business continuity management programs. During his career Rob has worked for the US State Department’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program, as a crisis management consultant in Pakistan and Afghanistan where he negotiated with the UN and Pashtun tribal warlords and he served with the United Kingdom Special Forces where he operated internationally under hazardous covert and confidential conditions. Rob was also part of a disciplined and prestigious unit The Grenadier Guards where he served Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the Royal Palaces in London. Rob was a highly trained and experienced infantryman serving in Desert Storm and commanded covert operational teams and was a sniper. Rob has keynoted disaster recovery conferences and participated in live debates on FOX News regarding complex security requirements and terrorism. Rob has a Queen’s Commendation for Bravery.