An organization’s emergency response is only as effective as the plans and protocols that are in place before the scenario occurs. If organizations want to protect their people, property, and productivity, they must have thorough, well-documented crisis response procedures. Furthermore, crisis response plans should be tailored to the type of event; an active shooter situation requires a very different response than an IT outage.
As such, it’s essential for crisis managers to create comprehensive response plans for various types of emergencies. But these plans shouldn’t be static documents. Rather, they must be evaluated and modified frequently to ensure they are accurate, comprehensive and effective.
Drills are an excellent way to evaluate emergency response procedures. After running a drill, incident management teams can create an After Action Report (AAR) to document the drill and evaluate the existing response plan. The After Action Report process can also be implemented after a real-world crisis to analyze emergency procedures and identify areas for improvement. Creating an After Action Report after every drill and crisis allows administrators to continually evaluate emergency response plans and evolve them to improve crisis outcomes.
An overview of the After Action Report
The After Action Report (or After Action Review) originated in the U.S. Army in the 1970s as a way to allow soldiers to discuss an event in order to learn from it and improve future actions and missions. The military still uses AARs, and this review process has also been adopted by government organizations, schools, healthcare institutions and corporations in all industries.
Top advantages of After Action Reports
The After Action Report provides a formal environment in which interested parties can discuss a drill or real-world crisis scenario. This official process is more beneficial than an informal discussion because it ensures that every individual who was involved gets the chance to share their experience and have it recorded. Furthermore, it’s easier for everyone to understand the goal of the AAR: to identify mistakes and make proactive changes that prevent those errors from occurring again.
The procedural format of an After Action Review makes it easier for administrators to document and evaluate every aspect of a situation. Crisis managers can study the report to better understand which response protocols worked well and which did not. Then, they can modify incident management plans to improve outcomes for the next drill or event. Additionally, having a library of After Action Reports allows in-depth analysis to discover recurring issues and trends.
After Action Report template
No two After Action Reports will be exactly the same, but all of them should include these critical sections:
- Initialization: Start by defining the event that’s up for review. This section should include a detailed description of the event itself (e.g., drill or real-world crisis), including dates, times, locations and involved individuals. It’s vital to clearly define expectations and objectives: designated team leaders/incident managers, expected response times and projected outcomes. Be as clear and thorough as possible.
- Review: The next part of the report should describe what actually happened during the incident/drill. Incorporate as many details as possible, including a timeline of events, a list of individuals/resources involved, a description of actions taken and a record of the outcome. Allow everyone who was involved to share their experience and observations; multiple points of view can create a clearer picture of what occurred.
- Analysis: Now it’s time to analyze every element of the response. Compare the defined expectations with what actually occurred to identify successes and failures. It’s vital to document exactly what worked and what did not.
- Next steps: Finally, take the information learned from the previous step to develop clear, actionable steps to address the elements of the response plan that did not work well. An AAR shouldn’t be mistaken for criticism or judgment. Rather, the goal is to create an instructive document that can be used to expand and improve emergency plans.
Following this format ensures that the After Action Report includes all the necessary information, from background to next steps. Using a template also makes After Action Reports easier to read and compare, allowing for in-depth analysis of long-term changes and trends.
Incorporating After Action Reports into crisis management planning
After Action Reviews can significantly improve emergency preparedness and the overall efficiency and efficacy of crisis response procedures. However, it’s critical to clearly define the intent of the After Action Report up front. Additionally, the AAR process must include all key stakeholders, but involving too many people may create confusion.
Before the discussion begins, ensure that everyone understands who is leading the conversation. Verify that every person will get a chance to contribute, but maintain control of the discussion to ensure that all key points are discussed. Without a clear discussion leader, the conversation can quickly devolve into tangents and blame. Appointing a competent discussion leader is especially crucial for virtual meetings or hybrid groups that include in-person and remote personnel.
Finally, create a positive and open environment, especially during the analysis and next steps portions of the meeting. Allow every person to voice their thoughts and contribute potential solutions. Encourage honest feedback, but avoid placing blame or dismissing suggestions out of hand. Once everyone has agreed on a list of action items, appoint someone to finalize the AAR and distribute it to the appropriate parties.
Enhance emergency preparedness with communication solutions
The After Action Report is an extremely beneficial crisis management tool for administrators in schools, hospitals, government organizations and companies. This formal review process ensures that everyone gets to hear multiple points of view and get a detailed look at the successes and failures that occurred during a drill or crisis event. Administrators can use this information to improve emergency procedures for better outcomes.
An After Action Report is just one example of how vital a part communication and collaboration play in effective crisis management. Administrators can improve emergency response outcomes by developing comprehensive communication protocols and implementing tools and systems to facilitate those conversations.
Rave Mobile’s critical communication solutions feature cutting-edge technology and easy-to-use interfaces. Crisis managers can quickly send multichannel emergency alerts to targeted recipients and request status updates. Collaboration tools enhance coordination between internal security forces and external first responders. Rave’s tools also facilitate fast, reliable operational messaging and include various features to protect employees in the office and off-site. To learn more about our communication solutions, contact our team.