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Exercise Types

UPDATE:  The State Superintendent of Public Instruction has used his authority provided by HB 197 to approve an extended deadline for the 2020 Emergency Management Test in the wake of coronavirus-related ordered school building closure. The new deadline for the 2020 test is December 31, 2021. Please contact the Ohio School Safety Center with any questions related to this extension.

What is the best way to keep your students and staff safe?

Practice your emergency management plan.

You have worked with your local officials and community organizations to develop a school emergency management plan.

But how do you know your plan will work?

You need to answer this question before a threat occurs.

Practicing your plan is the best way to build confidence that your plan will work, and your students and staff know what to do in an emergency. Knowing what to do reduces panic and saves lives.

State law requires your school to conduct three types of tests over a three-year cycle.

There are three types of tests:

  1. TABLETOP EXERCISE - The most basic test is a tabletop exercise. Typically, this exercise happens in an informal setting. The intent is to discuss various issues regarding a hypothetical, simulated emergency. Tabletop exercises enhance general awareness, validate plans and procedures, and rehearse potential situations. Additionally, they assess the systems your school needs to prevent as well as to protect, mitigate, respond and recover during a defined incident. Tabletop exercises facilitate conceptual understanding, identify strengths and areas for improvement, and/or achieve changes in attitudes.

  2. FUNCTIONAL EXERCISE - To further validate your school emergency plan, you will want to actually try to complete the procedures written in the plan for a specific hazard through a functional exercise. The focus is to see how policies and procedures work in a realistic, but still simulated setting. Additionally, it allows school administrators to direct staff and students in their response to the hazard. In functional exercises, the practice may include changes in the situation that management must respond to through quick adjustments. A functional exercise consists of one of the protective actions in the functional content areas of your plan. 

Note: The Ohio State Fire Marshall requires fire, lockdown, tornado and rapid dismissal drills, which are all functional exercises. A State Fire Marshall drill that you document to the standard of the EMT allows your school to use the drill to count for both requirements. You will only be able to do this type of test once over the three-year period.

  1. FULL SCALE EXERCISE - Finally, there is the most complex of the exercises or tests, the full scale exercise. Here, you will exercise multiple functional content area sections of your plan, putting together a more complete response. It may involve first responders (fire, law enforcement, EMS, and/or emergency management), local officials and community organizations. For a full scale exercise, we would like to see a combination of evacuation and family reunification or lockdown, reverse evacuation, and emergency notification.

State Fire Marshal Required Tests 

On March 23, 2015, HB178 went into effect. Part of that legislation includes changes to school fire and safety drills. The Division of State Fire Marshal (SFM), Code Enforcement Bureau has issued the following documents for your review:

  • Technical Bulletin 15-001: A summary of the legislation and its effects
  • FAQ: Frequently asked questions
  • Instructions / Log: Quick reference for schools and the log/form they must return to the SFM
  • Flow Chart – A quick reference guide for the drills (number and type) that schools must conduct


For questions regarding drills or rapid dismissals, please contact the State Fire Marshal’s Office, Code Enforcement Bureau, 8895 E. Main Street, Reynoldsburg, OH 43068; (614)728-5460; websfm@com.state.oh.us.

For questions regarding school safety drills, please contact appropriate law enforcement for your jurisdiction (i.e., the police chief or other similar chief law enforcement officer, or designee, of your municipal corporation, township, or township or joint police district in which your school or institution is located, or, in absence of any such person, the county sheriff of the county, or designee, in which your school or institution is located).