North-Eastern Atlantic, Mediterranean and connected seas

Tsunami Information Centre

How to conduct tsunami exercises


Conduct briefings to staff, exercise control and evaluators, other agency personnel and media. This should start immediately after the IOC Circular Letter Tsunami Wave announcement and continue until just before the start of the exercise.

The key points to raise during the briefings regardless of the group of people are:




Timings and duration of participation required.

Exercise boundaries

What can and cannot occur in terms of role playing and also operational response. The physical boundaries of the exercise.


Locations of key venues or activities where relevant.

Expected outcomes

What is expected as a result of the exercise?

Safety briefing          

What the emergency procedures for the exercise are.

Exercise logistics briefing

What the logistical and administration arrangements for the exercise are. What will happen in case of a real warning or emergency



Tsunami Wave exercises may be started immediately following the last participant briefing. The in-country/agency Exercise Director ensures that all Exercise Control staffs are in place and are ready to begin.



Each in-country/agency Exercise Director uses the Master Schedule of Events List (MSEL) to control the exercise. He/she ensures that any problems are rectified to keep the exercise flowing. The Exercise Director can modify the flow of the exercise to make sure objectives are met.

Once the exercise has started and participants are in place the tsunami bulletins or products identified in the Master Schedule of Events List can be introduced into exercise play. The tsunami bulletins may be disseminated via the international and regional tsunami warning centres or by each country/agency Exercise Control team via the "exercise play book". The exercise manual will outline what method will be adopted for each Tsunami Wave exercise.



Sustaining exercise activity is achieved by the continuous injection of exercise information to the participants. This needs to be closely monitored to ensure that the information is released at an appropriate time. Depending on how well participants react to the injects, the rate of injects in addition to the tsunami warning products (international and national or local), may need to be increased or slowed down. It may be necessary to add or remove injects to suit the pace of the exercise.


It is also important to control exercise activity. Participants may react in a different way to what was anticipated. If this happens, then a check needs to be made to see if the reaction will have an ongoing effect on the exercise. Free play also needs to be controlled to prevent it from de-railing the exercise. If there is a danger that free-play or a reaction will have a negative effect on the exercise, the addition of a spontaneous problem or solution inject may correct the problem. The in-country Exercise Director may need to step in and put the exercise back on track.

Control staff must mark off on the Master Schedule of Events List when tsunami products and other injects are ‘sent’. These products/injects are marked with an exercise inject serial number (e.g. #001).

In some cases where participants start to get frustrated, injects start to back up, or conflict occurs between players, then the in-country/agency Exercise Director may need to step in temporarily and pause the exercise. Once the problems have been resolved, the Exercise Director can start the exercise again. It is important that the Exercise Director ensures the exercise is a positive experience for the participants.

In a real situation, experience has shown that communications channels, especially the public-access lines, get back-logged, slow, or shut down. It is especially important that that public is not allowed to distract operations staff (such as at the tsunami warning centre or emergency operations centre) and prevent them from issuing time-sensitive and critical safety information. To avoid this, it is essential that agencies have a public information and media plan as one of their standard operating procedures.



Finishing the exercise is a controlled activity. The in-country/agency Exercise Director stops the exercise at a pre-planned time (e.g., this could be the international cancellation tsunami bulletin).

An immediate hot debrief should be provided for all players and staff to capture information and feedback while it is still fresh in their minds.

For health and safety purposes in functional exercises, ensure that all of the participants and staff are accounted for before releasing people from the exercise.


Source : UNESCO/IOC Manuals and Guides, 58.