After Action Reviews

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After Action ReviewsPreparing Your Organization for the Next Incident

An After Action Review (AAR), is commonly used by the military and according to the Harvard Business Review is, “A method for extracting from one event or project and applying them to others.” For instance, if during your past fire drill, exit doors were not closed after everyone evacuated, you recognize that as a shortcoming and next time you have a fire drill, someone is in charge of securing those inner perimeter doors before evacuating themselves. You took an instance from one event and applied it to the next event. After Action Reviews are critical to the continuation of safety and security for any facility and enables organizations to continue striving toward a safer environment.

After Action Reviews are kind of self-explanatory, they are utilized after an incident takes place and it reviews everything that happened during that incident, whether good or bad, and shows where improvements can be made to handle the situation better next time. You should perform an AAR at least once a year, even if there is not an incident to review. If that is the case, use a large scale drill which includes your local first responders and review that. Drills should always be practiced as if they were real-life, allowing for a first-hand experience of how well your organization is prepared to handle an emergency.

You may be wondering what is included in an After Action Review. AARs typically include a few general questions that should be answered in detail by those who were involved in the response. Questions include: what was supposed to happen, what actually happened, why were there differences, what worked, what didn’t, why, and what would you do differently next time? These questions are fairly vague, but they offer guidance on how you should approach your review by first starting out with your goal and then specifically stating the things that helped you reach that goal, or hindered you and could be improved upon.

So, why are AARs important for your organization? Whether a school, hospital, place of worship, or theater, After Action Reviews allow for an in depth look at how your facility responds to emergencies. Although an AAR mostly happens after an incident, it can help to better prepare your organization and staff for the next incident or drill. After Action Reviews give an overview and allow you to prepare for a more cohesive and effective response in the future, by learning from past mistakes.

After an emergency at your facility, the last thing you want to do is recognize that things went wrong and some things could have been avoided, but by using an AAR to understand the shortcomings, you are setting your organization up for success in future incidents or drills. How often does your facility do an AAR? Who do you invite to participate in the review? It is important to have a variety of people in your AAR, giving feedback to provide a comprehensive review and allow for greater preparedness the next time you find yourself reviewing an incident.


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