Exercises enable entities to identify strengths and incorporate them within best practices to sustain and enhance existing capabilities. They also provide an objective assessment of gaps and shortfalls within plans, policies and procedures to address areas for improvement prior to a real-world incident. Exercises help clarify roles and responsibilities among different entities, improve interagency coordination and communications and identify needed resources and opportunities for improvement.
National Exercise Program
The National Exercise Program (NEP) serves as a principal exercise mechanism for examining the preparedness and measuring the readiness of the United States across the entire homeland security enterprise. The NEP accomplishes this goal by leveraging exercises occurring throughout the United States to comprise a progressive cycle of exercises over a two-year period that rigorously tests the nation’s ability to perform specific missions and functions that prevent, protect against, respond to, recover from and mitigate all-hazards.
The NEP uses the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) methodology and related tools and resources provided by the National Exercise and Simulation Center (NESC).
The Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) provides a set of guiding principles for exercise programs as well as a common methodology for exercise program management, design and development, conduct, evaluation and improvement planning. HSEEP exercise and evaluation doctrine is flexible, scalable and adaptable to the needs of stakeholders across the whole community and is applicable for exercises across all national preparedness mission areas—prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery.
National Exercise Simulation Center
The National Exercise and Simulation Center (NESC) is a Congressionally-mandated, state-of-the-art exercise center that serves as the central services hub linking planning, training, exercise and response personnel with existing modeling and simulation capabilities. The NESC’s mission is to enhance the Department of Homeland Security’s all-hazards preparedness and response mission through the promotion of effective and efficient exercise design, conduct and evaluation to include the application of modeling and simulation to these exercises.
Radiological Emergency Preparedness (REP) Program Exercises
On December 7, 1979, following the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant accident in Pennsylvania, President Carter transferred the federal lead role in offsite radiological emergency planning and preparedness activities from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
FEMA established the Radiological Emergency Preparedness (REP) Program to ensure the health and safety of citizens living around commercial nuclear power plants would be adequately protected in the event of a nuclear power plant accident; and inform and educate the public about radiological emergency preparedness.
REP Program responsibilities encompass state, tribal and local government emergency planning and preparedness activities that take place beyond the nuclear power plant boundaries. Onsite activities continue to be the responsibility of the NRC.
Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program (CSEPP) Program Exercises
Since 1988, FEMA and the U.S. Army have partnered to help communities surrounding the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile locations enhance their ability to respond in the unlikely event of a chemical accident or incident. The remaining stockpile sites are the Pueblo Chemical Depot in Colorado and the Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky. As part of this preparedness effort, depot, county, state and federal officials at each location work together every year to plan, conduct and evaluate a full-scale, chemical weapons exercise.