Testing and exercising are the processes and procedures that are used to validate primary requirements, including those for safety and security, and to verify that particular contingency plans satisfy those requirements.
The objectives for testing and exercising within the Achievement phase of the contingency process help to verify that the detailed means for translating the plans into reality are effectively in place. These tests also help to build confidence and raise awareness about the existence and nature of the plans.
Testing - Test/Testing is usually associated with a technological procedure and/or business process being tried, perhaps against a target timescale. In this context a piece of equipment could be considered as a 'pass' (i.e. serviceable) or 'fail' (i.e. unserviceable). Examples might be the testing of ground/ground or air/ground communications from an alternate air traffic management (ATM) facility in the contingency configuration or check of a call-out cascade system.
Exercising - Exercise/Exercising is normally used for a scenario-based event designed to examine decision-making abilities. An example could be a desk-top exercise to manage a major contingency causing incident. The term ‘rehearsing’ can be used to describe practice with a specific set of procedures, possibly following a script, to build and impart awareness and familiarity. Contingency Planning testing and exercising activities fall primarily in the Achievement phase of the contingency process. Some aspects of these activities may also be carried over into Execution and Assurance as well as Promotion - participating in an exercise can help to promote contingency plans to members of staff.
Testing/Exercising Regime - There are no mandated requirements from International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) or the European Union (EU) to test contingency plans. However, as a guide, when referring to Aerodrome Emergency Exercises, ICAO Annex 14 states:
“9.1.12 The plan shall contain procedures for periodic testing of the adequacy of the plan and for reviewing the results in order to improve its effectiveness. Note. The plan includes all participating agencies and associated equipment.
9.1.13 The plan shall be tested by conducting:
a) a full-scale aerodrome emergency exercise at intervals not exceeding two years; and
b) partial emergency exercises in the intervening year to ensure that any deficiencies found during the full-scale aerodrome emergency exercise have been corrected; and reviewed thereafter, or after an actual emergency, so as to correct any deficiency found during such exercises or actual emergency.
Note. The purpose of a full-scale exercise is to ensure the adequacy of the plan to cope with different types of emergencies. The purpose of a partial exercise is to ensure the adequacy of the response to individual participating agencies and components of the plan, such as the communications system”.
Thus, the need for testing/exercising of ANS contingency plans should therefore be made at a local level and again will be dependent on the measures chosen and in part decided by factors such as built-in redundancy and resilience of existing systems/ equipment.
The clear aim, however, should be to check the viability of the contingency plan(s). This is not necessarily to test for pass or fail but to examine the overall preparedness of the organisation to respond to a contingency scenario and in particular how the personnel respond. The provision of external contractors/suppliers to support contingency plans (including being involved in testing and exercising) should be included in the contracts as appropriate.