Why After-Action Reports matter and why you need to start writing (and reading) them!

Everyone learns from experience. The best document to capture that experience is the After-Action Report (AAR).

But as we get swept away with a response and then recovery from that response, AARs often fall by the wayside. Our intention of writing them, reading them, sharing them, go undone because as soon as we recover from one thing, we jump right into another.
We must stop. We must make time to write AARs. And, even more importantly, we must take the time to read AARs – our own and others’.
No disaster is going to go according to plan. But if we can learn from the past, we can make better decisions. When looking at Hurricane Harvey, we can’t compare it to Hurricanes Katrina or Rita, or Superstorm Sandy. But we could have applied some of the lessons learned from them.
Houston’s metro bus system, for example, learned from the past. In both Katrina and Sandy, public transit buses and trains, parked outdoors in low-lying areas, were flooded and damaged, and public transportation suffered greatly for months afterward – exactly when it was needed most! What did Houston do? They drove all their busses onto a highway overpass and parked them, end to end, in the express lane. There they stayed safe from the floodwaters. This is a brilliant idea every city should hear about.
An After-Action Report is NOT a blame session. Nor is it some moment-by-moment chronology of who did (or did not do) what. Rather, it’s a brief summary of the event, along with lessons learned – good and bad.
AARs are best when they include an Improvement Report: a listing of actions to be taken, showing who will lead that action, and when it will be due. Proper follow-up on the improvement plan will ensure that the planning, organizing, training, or equipment is improved based on the AAR. Both documents become part of the training and exercise plan – our subsequent training needs to be based on what we have learned, and we need to demonstrate that improvement in follow-up exercises.
AARs are important to every industry, and the emergency management and healthcare communities need to make them a bigger part of the preparedness plans. With the CMS emergency preparedness compliance deadline rapidly approaching, we should be utilizing AARs increasingly.
Here are some reasons AARs keep us relevant:
  1. They help you think better
  2. They help share information with others
  3. They help new employees catch up quickly
  4. They help spark creativity
  5. They help with decision making
  6. They help eliminate interpretation
There’s another important benefit: If you activated your emergency plan, took good notes, and wrote an AAR and Improvement Plan after, adjusting your Emergency Operations Plan accordingly, that counts as your required full-scale exercise for CMS compliance!
Need help writing an AAR? Not sure where to get started with the whole preparedness process? Crisis Response & Prevention can help with everything.
Check out our “Compliance in a Box” or contact us today.
Categories: CMS Compliance | Healthcare

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