Thursday, November 4, 2010

After-Action Reports—The story of an exercise and its response—Part 1

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard “Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council” magazine by CDR Ruby Collins, Supervisor, Exercise Support Branch–Detachment 1, U.S. Coast Guard Force Readiness Command.

Following an exercise or event response, we have a tendency to say, “I’m glad that’s over!” For some, however, the work is just beginning.

The After-Action Report
The after-action report (AAR) is the Coast Guard’s official record of an exercise. How important is the AAR to your organization? This report may be the official document required to obtain grants from the Department of Homeland Security, or to receive exercise funds from other sources.

Additionally, a comprehensive AAR will tell you what occurred during an exercise or real-world event. This will allow you to:
  • determine if the exercise met program or regulatory requirements,
  • identify the obstacles the participants faced and whether they were able to overcome them,
  • reveal shortfalls in the response efforts,
  • establish training requirements,
  • clarify gaps in the contingency plan.

Data Capturing
Participant meetings should be scheduled as soon as possible after an exercise. Facilitators can draw people into the discussion by asking questions, reading body language, and keeping the group focused.

Initial feedback can be used to develop a “quick look” report—three items that went well and three items that require additional attention—that is helpful in crafting the final after-action report.

For more information:
Full article is available at

Subscribe online at