FREE-B Tabletop Exercises Food Related Emergency Exercise Bundle (FREE-B)

NEW! Click here for the announcement on funding decision and awardees (pdf)

Congratulations to the 2013 FDA FREE-B RFP Funding Awardees! FDA has provided funds of up to $4,000 per workshop to the following recipients:

  • Berrien County Health Department, Michigan
  • Chicago Department of Public Health, Illinois
  • Cobb & Douglas Public Health, Georgia
  • Columbiana County Health Department, Ohio
  • Houston Department of Health & Human Services, Texas
  • Indiana State Board of Animal Health, Indiana
  • Kentucky Department for Public Health, Kentucky
  • Louisiana Department of Health & Hospitals, Louisiana
  • Maricopa County Department of Public Health, Arizona
  • Mid-Michigan District Health Department, Michigan
  • North Dakota Department of Health, North Dakota
  • Ottawa County Health Department, Michigan
  • Paulding County Health Department, Ohio
  • Pendleton County Health Department, West Virginia
  • Puerto Rico Department of Health / Environmental Health Secretariat, Puerto Rico
  • Sauk County Public Health Department, South Central Environmental Health Consortium, Wisconsin
  • Thurston County Public Health and Social Services, Washington
  • Tulsa City County Health Department, Oklahoma
  • Union County Health Department, Ohio

2013 FREE-B Request for Proposals (RFP)

Call for proposals to receive funding for FREE-B workshops closed on March 15th, 2013

For questions or concerns, please contact Tejas Bhatt at


Released in July, 2011 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Food Related Emergency Exercise Bundle (FREE-B) toolkit is set of five tabletop exercise scenarios, available online, based on both intentional and unintentional food contamination events. FREE-B is designed with the intention of assisting stakeholders in assessing existing food emergency response plans, protocols, and procedures, or to assist in the revising or development of a food emergency response plan.

Each scenario is stand-alone, allowing for the flexibility to choose the most relevant one for an exercise. Additionally, FREE-B is predicated on strengthening existing collaborations and partnerships between and among neighboring jurisdictions and with other stakeholders (private sector, law enforcements, private sector, medical community, and first responders, etc.). FDA encourages users of FREE-B to consider inviting these groups to participate in the exercises in order to further bolster and solidify existing relationships.

Want more information about FREE-B? Visit:

2011 – 2012 Request for Proposals

IFT would like to congratulate the state and local recipients of funding to facilitate FREE-B workshops this year. The intent of the RFP was to provide funding support for state and local organizations to conduct a FREE-B exercise so that FDA could learn more about how the tool is being used and obtain feedback on how the tool can be updated in the future to effectively support stakeholder needs.

IFT and the Food and Drug Administration appreciate the time and effort put forth in all of the proposals that were received and the successful completion of their exercises. The recipients listed below received up to $5,000.00 to support day-of-event and limited lead-up planning assistance. All exercises were completed by June 2012.

State Based Recipients:

  • Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
  • Connecticut Department of Public Health
  • Georgia Department of Agriculture
  • Illinois Department of Public Health
  • Iowa Department of inspection and Appeals
  • Minnesota Department of Agriculture
  • New York State Department of Health /Michigan Department of Community Health
  • Virginia Department of Health

Local Public Health Agency Recipient:

  • Uncas Health District (Connecticut)

Findings from Previous Exercise Host Evaluations

Lessons Learned from Exercise Planning

  • Choose a FREE-B scenario that best meets your objectives for conducting the tabletop
  • Choose a planning team that has extensive experience coordinating and participating in tabletop exercises
  • Clarify the expected roles of the planning team members and provide written expectations of those in lead capacities when getting them to agree to take those roles
  • Ensure that the planning team becomes familiar with the Lead Planner’s Guide, the Facilitators Guide and the Situation Manual (SITMAN)
  • Ensure that the facilitators have become familiar with the Facilitator’s Guide
  • Use all resources included within FREE-B as guides that should be customized to meet your needs. 36 out of 44 planning team members from the previous RFP stated they modified the contents of the tabletop exercise to better suit their objectives.
  • Encourage supervisors and co-workers to promote the tabletop within their organizations to encourage participation
  • Invite a diverse group of participants including representatives from the food industry as well as:

- Regulatory

- Government

- Public health

- Emergency management

- Environmental health

- Risk communication

- Agriculture

- Epidemiology

- Veterinary

- Food safety

- Food defense

- Academia

- Schools

- Law Enforcement

- Livestock

- Hospitals

  • It is critical for all planning team members complete the evaluation form which can be used to improve the tabletop exercise planning experience as well as the FREE-B toolkit

Lessons Learned from Exercise Execution

  • Provide a copy of the SITMAN to each participant (either printed or online)
  • Use the suggested questions to create an engaging discussion at each table; some previous FREE-B workshops selected lead facilitators at each table to lead the discussions
  • The FREE-B materials are intended to challenge the participants but not too a level that it becomes cumbersome and tiring
  • During the tabletop, as issues get identified, spend some time discussing potential solutions to those issues that may be acted upon post-workshop
  • Capture key lessons learned by the participants and discuss how they intend to use those lessons in their day jobs
  • It is critical for all participants to complete the evaluation form which can be used to improve the tabletop exercise as well as the FREE-B toolkit

Office of Food Defence, Communication and Emergency Response   Institute of Food Technologists