Tuesday, November 9, 2010

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

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard “Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council” magazine. Click here for Part I.

The Participant “Hot Wash”
This meeting is typically held immediately following the event. Holding it at the functional area of play enables participants to come together to hear about challenges.

This also is a good time to distribute and collect participant feedback forms. All feedback, whether positive or recommendations for improvement, will aid planners as they design exercises or prepare for actual events.

The Controller and Evaluator Debrief
This event may be held directly after the participant hot wash. The primary focus is to discuss and review the controller’s and evaluator’s observations on how responses to exercise events played out.

The debrief should focus on answering questions such as:
  • What response actions were triggered at the start of the event?
  • Were problems encountered that complicated coordinating resources?
  • Did agencies have a notification system in place?
  • Were contingency plans used to address what actions were required?
  • Did the contingency plans cover the specific event, or were there gaps?

An exercise should not be looked at as a “pass” or “fail” event, but as a method to determine if all aspects of response efforts were addressed. It is also an opportunity to identify issues for corrective action prior to an actual incident.

Additionally, meeting organizers must reiterate the importance of writing complete and comprehensive exercise evaluation guides and establish a due date for the evaluators to submit them to the lead evaluator.

Vetting and Approval
An after-action conference should be scheduled within one month after the exercise. This conference’s outcomes are to solicit feedback for edits to the AAR, develop the improvement plan, and assign a responsible party and due date for each corrective action.

The plan should be a realistic and prioritized list of corrective actions required to improve preparedness. It’s important to note that the improvement plan may only be the first step. Some items may require additional funding or necessitate developing agreements among agencies that share responsibilities or resources during a response.

For more information:
Full article is available at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/fall2009.

Subscribe online at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/subscribe.asp.