CISA Releases COVID-19 Recovery Tabletop Exercise Package

Troutman Pepper

Troutman Pepper

On July 17, 2020 the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released the COVID-19 Recovery CISA Tabletop Exercise Package (CTEP) “to assist private sector stakeholders and critical infrastructure owners and operators in assessing short-term, intermediate, and long-term recovery and business continuity plans related to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The COVID-19 Recovery CTEP is an adaptable, discussion-based resource that takes participants through the process of responding to hypothetical scenarios regarding COVID-19 and its ongoing effects, including the issue of a potential “second wave,” to identify and address areas for improvement, threats, issues, and concerns affecting the 16 critical infrastructure sectors identified in Presidential Policy Directive 21 (PPD-21) and outlined in the National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP). The COVID-19 Recovery CTEP was built with essential workers in mind, using CISA's Guidance on Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers as a resource to inform discussion priorities.

The COVID-19 Recovery CTEP consists of 10 documents:

  1. Situation Manual (SitMan) – a form situation manual that includes an exercise agenda, exercise overview, exercise objectives and core capabilities, participant roles and responsibilities, exercise structure, exercise guidelines, exercise assumptions and artificialities, guidance for completing the exercise virtually, and scenarios and discussion questions for each scenario.

  2. Welcome Letter – an official letter from CISA outlining the purpose of the COVID-19 Recovery CTEP, its content and its available resources.

  3. Program Fact Sheet – provides a brief overview of the COVID-19 Recovery CTEP, including the exercise objectives and other COVID-19 and CTEP exercise resources.

  4. Exercise Planner Handbook – explains the basics of a tabletop exercise and provides step-by-step instructions on how to successfully plan, develop, and execute an exercise using the COVID-19 Recovery CTEP.

  5. Facilitator & Evaluator Handbook – a guidance document for facilitators, evaluators, and data collectors that includes descriptions of the roles and responsibilities of facilitators and evaluators and the procedures that they should follow, along with information about the scenario. The Facilitator & Evaluator Handbook also supplements the Situation Manual to assist in capturing information and feedback during the exercise for developing the After-Action Report/Improvement Plan.

  6. Invitation Letter Template – a template letter that an organization may send to invite individuals to participate or observe the exercise.

  7. Exercise Brief Slide Deck Template – a template PowerPoint presentation to be used in conjunction with the Situation Manual that guides participants through the exercise.

  8. Participant Feedback Form – a form to be completed by exercise participants to gather feedback and recommendations about the exercise and any strengths or weaknesses of the organization observed through the exercise.

  9. Exercise Planner Feedback Form – a form to be completed by exercise planners and facilitators to evaluate the usefulness of the exercise and gather feedback.

  10. After-Action Report / Improvement Plan Template – a form after-action report/improvement plan to help exercise planners, evaluators, and data collectors in developing an after-action report/improvement plan in accordance with the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) guidance.

The COVID-19 Recovery CTEP has been approved for distribution by the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Small Business Administration (SBA), the six Department of Homeland Security’s Sector-Specific Agencies (SSAs), along with other federal departments and agencies have all provided input into the COVID-19 Recovery CTEP to ensure realistic scenarios and relevant discussion questions. Questions about a specific scenario or recommendations for improvement can be directed to CISA by e-mail at

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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