HAP Blog

Make Your After-Action Report Count

Don’t let past lessons go to waste

August 31, 2022

Finally, you’ve made it through the tornado that upended operations at your facility, and you’re off to respond to the next event or to catch up on the work that came through during your time of crisis.

But here’s an important reminder: there is an after-action report to complete.

The after-action report is probably not the highlight for any emergency manager, but it’s a critical step that we need to value and respect in the cycle of preparedness. Have you ever gone to your emergency management committee month after month and seen that an after-action report improvement plan isn’t moving forward and the tasks are not being completed? Maybe you’ve neglected to get the after-action report together amid a flurry of responsibilities we all juggle during a given day.

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has shown us why these reports matter. Here are a few things you should consider.

Keep it focused

Sometimes we find that our improvement plan may have tackled too many well-intended opportunities all at once, or maybe we assigned a majority of the improvements to one individual. Either way, an unrealistic improvement plan won’t assist you in preparation for the next event.

As a starting point, focus on the top priorities that will help you during your next emergency and your top lessons learned. Then, think about the structure of your team as you attempt to solve the problems that came up during the emergency response.

Having an after-action report that identifies top priorities and considers your organization’s unique qualities will help you craft a plan that makes sense for your facility.

Past preparedness guides future response

We have weathered seemingly unimaginable obstacles during the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenges were epic, and we know our solutions were not always perfect. We had to make difficult decisions in real time related to personal protective equipment, the vaccine rollout, and our workforce shortages, among countless other examples. The good news for us is that the CDC released new updated guidance for the community, and we have learned to live with COVID-19. That’s the end of the story, right?

Now, we’re reading headlines about the recent monkeypox outbreak. It started as an emerging infectious disease that many hoped would not spread rapidly due to a different route of transmission. Following COVID-19, we all understand how viruses mutate to stay alive, even against our best efforts.

It’s easy to see the parallels between our response to COVID-19 and the recent emergency response to monkeypox. Here are just a few that come to mind:

  • Using data to guide decision making on where to deploy vaccine and expanding testing capabilities by partnering with commercial laboratories.  
  • Receiving feedback from frontline providers administering TPOXX to adapt the process and ease prescribing requirements.
  • Implementing emergency use authorizations to quickly address vaccine inadequacy to meet the emerging demand.

This approach reminds us of the importance of having an after-action improvement plan and using it to address the next emergency. COVID-19 and monkeypox are different viruses, but we can learn lessons each time we face a crisis.

Take action

Do you have an after-action improvement plan sitting on a desk, or buried in committee minutes that’s not moving forward? Use your emergency management committee to identify challenges and support those efforts. Perhaps that means bringing leadership on board to support and assist or working with a different vendor to accomplish a task.

Those very improvements could be necessary to avoid the next real-life scenario in your facility. And who knows, it could come quicker than expected. If we could predict the future, we’d all spring into action to get ready for it.

For questions about implementing an after-action report, contact me or HAP’s Emergency management team for more information


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