Exercise staff roles

Exercise director(s)

The exercise director(s) provides strategic oversight and direction on the planning, conduct and evaluation of the exercise. The exercise director(s) is responsible for approving the aim, objectives and supporting documentation, including the concept document, exercise plan and exercise instructions. In multi-agency exercises there will often be more than one exercise director. It is quite normal in those circumstances for the major participants in the exercise to each provide an exercise director for strategic advice and authority.

The exercise director(s) provides the authority to conduct the exercise, however they do not have a hands-on role in the planning or conduct phases. The exercise report will be provided to the exercise director(s) at the conclusion of the exercise so that appropriate action can be taken.

Exercise Controller

The people who run and support the exercise are called the exercise control staff. Control staff are drawn from participating organisations and report to the Exercise Director. Their role is to ensure the exercise is conducted effectively. They should monitor participants, help create a realistic atmosphere, keep the exercise running smoothly, make rulings for participants, introduce special ideas and guide participants towards achieving the stated outcomes. Control staff should wear appropriate identification to avoid being confused with exercise participants.

Exercise planning team

The planning team will consist of those directly involved in the planning of the exercise and should include representation from participating agencies. It may have multi-agency representation and is chaired by the exercise controller.

The planning team assigns roles and responsibilities in accordance with the exercise planning governance structure. 

Exercise planning staff functions may include some or all of the following:

  • Writing
  • Logistics/admin
  • Risk management
  • Evaluation
  • Media
  • Observer
  • Legal

Writing function

Depending on the complexity of the exercise, the planning team will establish one or more exercise writing team(s). The exercise writing team(s) will report to the exercise planning team and be responsible for the detailed development of the master schedule of events, scenario and supporting documentation required as inputs or reference material during the conduct of the exercise.

Examples of subject matter that may require specialised writing teams include:

  • Scientific information (plume modelling etc.)
  • Investigation
  • Intelligence
  • Development of a casualty bank 
  • Media 
An exercise writing team may comprise only two or three people for a smaller exercise or many in the case of a large exercise. The team(s) should include subject-matter experts to ensure accurate, realistic and sufficient documentation is prepared. To ensure continuity throughout the exercise, members of the exercise writing team(s) should be appointed to roles in the EXCON team during the conduct of the exercise.

Logistics function

The logistics team will report to the exercise planning team and be responsible for identifying, sourcing, setting up, maintaining and repatriating the physical resources and services required for the conduct of the exercise and related activities. It is also responsible for developing the risk management plan.
A member of the logistics team should be appointed to undertake the role of logistics officer in the EXCON team during the conduct of the exercise.


Evaluation can include input from all aspects of the exercise and should be informed by:
  • Outputs from the exercise planning process and planning meetings
  • Observations from exercise staff
  • Outputs from the exercise debriefs
  • Observations/reports from the exercise evaluator(s)

The exercise report should attempt to answer the following questions:
  • What did we plan to do [what were the objectives]?
  • What did we achieve – how did this differ from what was planned [were objectives met and if not, how did the outcomes differ]?
  • Why did it happen [what led to the objective(s) not being achieved as planned]?
  • What can be done differently in the future [what improvements need to be made]?

Evaluation roles should be identified during the planning process, ensuring that team members have the relevant subject-matter expertise. Where possible staff involved in the exercise evaluation team should not have any other exercise appointment.

Risk Management/Safety

Risk management is about identifying potential variations from what we plan or desire, and managing those variations to maximise opportunity, minimise loss and improve decisions and outcomes. Managing risk means identifying and taking opportunities to improve performance, as well as taking action to avoid or reduce the chances of something going wrong.
Exercise planners should consider risks that may occur during the conduct of the exercise (e.g. urgent duty driving, safety of venues), as well as risks to the exercise itself (e.g. impact of a real event, industrial action) as part of the risk management process. The development and maintenance of a risk management plan and risk register is an integral part of the planning process. Exercise planners should refer to available materials that are specific to risk management for more guidance.

To ensure safety the following considerations should be reviewed before the exercise begins:

  • Has a risk management plan been established?
  • Is everyone trained to perform his or her task?
  • Have clear safety briefings been delivered and understood?
  • What SOP exists to cover safety issues and do they apply during the exercise?
  • Are safety officers in place to monitor safety during the exercise?
  • What contingency plans have been prepared?

Media/Communications function

The media coordinator or team reports to the exercise planning team and is responsible for developing the communications plan, including implementing real and pseudo media strategies.

Real media
This function looks after the media and public information strategies throughout the planning and conduct phases of the exercise. 
This may include:
  • Briefing government, industry partners and stakeholders
  • Developing a public information strategy

Clear and early identification of a consistent message is essential. The real media function is also responsible for managing any media issues that may arise during the exercise.

Pseudo media (simulated media)
This function is responsible for writing media inputs and coordinating the extent of pseudo media required for the exercise. Pseudo media can add realism and pressure to exercise scenarios and may include pre-written news reports, as well as live footage or online reporting.

Observer function

The exercise planning team needs to consider whether an observer program is appropriate. The observer function is responsible for coordinating the exercise experience for observers, including VIPs. This involves balancing expectations, exercise requirements, agency interests, security restrictions and available resources. These activities could include, but are not limited to:
  • Arranging transport and accommodation
  • managing cultural and protocol issues
  • The reception of visiting personnel
  • organizing social and after-hours activities

Legal function

The exercise planning team will identify the need for exercise-related legal advice. These requirements could include, but are not limited to:
  • Contingent liability
  • Applicable legislative issues
  • Liaison on unique ‘legal’ issues pertaining to the exercise