Professionals who design or participate in oil and hazardous material exercises would benefit from knowing historical lessons learned and best practices relative to the design and execution of exercises before they begin to develop or participate in similar exercises. In accordance with the “National Preparedness for Response Exercise Program (PREP) Guidelines” the staff at the USCG National Strike Force Coordination Center in Elizabeth City, NC has been in the business of designing, executing, and evaluating U.S. government-led PREP drills since 1993 and have accumulated abundant lessons learned and best practices relative to large scale exercises that would be beneficial to share with the response community. PREP exercises typically require six months to plan and design, three days to execute the drill with up to 300 participants, and three days to draft lessons learned. This paper will focus on lessons learned, problem areas, best practices, work arounds, and common sense pertaining to numerous subjects during the life cycle of designing and executing an exercise such as: Initial Design Phase; Functions of a Joint Design Team; Pre exercise Training; Play and Control Spaces; Communications; Incident Command System; Funding; Logistics; Notifications; Objectives; Public Affairs; and Improvements to Area Contingency Plans.

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