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2009 - After-Action Meeting and Reports
Are Hot Washes, all washed up?
UEMA Newsletter, October
Hugh Daniels
Park City Emergency Manager

After-action meetings or “Hot Washes” are in all of our training materials. They are the active review after the incident and are intended to look, in a non-threatening way, at what went well and what needs improvement in our response to an incident. They are also used to evaluate how an exercise went.

But are they getting done in a timely manner; is an Afteraction written report completed and is there a plan to follow through on recommendations? While the meetings seems to be happening pretty regularly, the reports not so much, at least in the several jurisdictions I have worked in over the years. I find the meetings and follow-up reports to be extremely helpful in making adjustments and improvements to our systems. They can also outline planning, mitigation and training needs.

In my 2 ˝ years with Park City I have had five of these "babies" to prepare on incidents I have nicknamed, "Dirty Water," "Tank Breach," "The Great Snows of 08," "Dynamite – Lots of It," and "Utah’s First H1N1."

I admit they tend to get pushed to the bottom of the pile. But even with the report for "Dynamite-Lots of It" which finally got finished ten months after the event, there were still lessons learned and improvements to be made that we now had a road map to complete.

There are a number of After- Action templates out there, but I have found the following to be the most user friendly, knowing sometimes sections just don’t apply.

  • After-Action Meeting Participants (date of meeting):
  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction, Background and Response
  • What Went Well
  • What Needs Improvement, including recommendations
  • Maps (if any)
  • Response Chronology
  • Compiled Updates (if any)
  • Public Service Announcements (if any)
  • Placed Advisories (if any)
  • Recommended Training Needs
  • Recovery Activities to Date
  • Action Plan for Accomplishing Principal Recommendations
What are the keys to successful meetings and reports?

Have your aftermaths meeting as soon after the event as possible and include all of the key players. Run your meetings as "no fault" meetings, i.ewe. no finger pointing, no fault, no glaring and no rolling of the eyes. Once your areas of improvement are identified, make sure each one has a person identified who will work on this recommendation and a deadline for that work to be completed, with a requirement to report back.

And oh yes, how much is "Dynamite – Lots of It?" 26 wooden cases of 50 sticks per case from a company that went out of business in 1904 run over by a backhoe. . . .

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