Tabletop exercises are among the most widely conducted exercises. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to introduce realism into these kinds of exercises. Some attempts have been made to enhance these exercises with overhead displays or computer imagery. Overhead displays still document the incident in only two dimensions, while computer imagery can be quite costly. A cost-effective alternative may be the three-dimensional tabletop exercise. With a 3-D tabletop exercise, many of the benefits of a full-scale deployment exercise are gained, while minimizing costs to almost the same level as the old-fashioned tabletop exercise. Response managers can still test their plans or refine their operations, while at the same time deploying resources and personnel during a simulated incident. Even cost accounting and maintenance problems can be easily inserted into the exercise, enabling personnel from the Logistics and Finance/Administration Sections to be active participants. The scale that is chosen is entirely up to the organization wishing to be exercised, but HO scale (approximately 1/72 scale) seems to work the best because of the availability of response resources that can be found in most toy or hobby stores. Resources, such as skimmers, vacuum trucks, boats, and personnel can be easily modeled with minimal cost, enabling exercise personnel to direct and employ the very same resources they would use in an actual response operation. In addition, this type of exercise can prove very valuable prior to executing a full-scale drill, as many of the drill problems—especially logistical issues—can be resolved before resources are actually deployed to a field environment. Response managers will become more familiar with their resources, thus making them more effective in an actual response operation and lowering overall costs for the responsible party. This type of drill prepared response managers and supervisors of the M/V Stolt Spirit fire, the M/V Katania fire and hazardous materials response, and the 1998 World Energy Conference to better plan and employ resources during these lengthy operations.

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