Getting the Most Out Of Your AAR

by | Oct 8, 2021 | Gary's Blog

An After-Action Review (AAR) is a tool for teams to learn from recent exercises, experiences, or incidents…
both good and bad.

As a rule, an After-Action Review (AAR) asks four questions:

      1. What did we do well?
      2. What would we do differently in a future event?
      3. Do we need to change our plans?
      4. Do we need to change our training?

An AAR does not play the ‘blame game’ or point fingers.  The AAR is a useful tool for helping the affected organization make changes and can even serve as a tool for other organizations that review the AAR.

The After-Action Review from the Rigby Middle School shooting last May in Idaho was recently released from the Idaho State Board of Education.

This eleven-page document is a great tool for all schools and districts that want to improve their own Emergency Operations Plans, and take advantage of the lessons learned and recommendations made from this tragic event.

Perhaps the most important aspect of an After Action Review and Report is not only the identification of corrective actions but then training staff on those lessons learded.

Perhaps the most important aspect of an After Action Review and Report is not only the identification of corrective actions, but then training staff on those lessons learned.  The key to a successful after action review process is simply identifying gaps: either in the direction a plan provides to the people referencing it, or the actions of the people who are tasked with implementing that plan.  If the people involved in the exercise or incident precisely carried out the direction of a plan but still faced challenges, the gap is in the plan and it must be revised with appropriate training provided; however, if the plan provides clear instruction on actions to be taken during a specific incident, then the people responsible for enforcement must be trained to utilize that plan.  Identifying corrective actions is important, but training your staff to implement that plan is the key to preventing the same outcome of a similar incident in the future.  This is why regularly exercising your Emergency Operations Plan is crucial: Your staff needs to feel confident in their required actions during an incident.

Quite possibly, the only takeaway from violence or loss of a life is to learn how to prevent that same thing happening again somewhere else.  I encourage every reader to review this AAR and find at least one piece of information from the Rigby AAR to incorporate into your school or district’s Emergency Operations Plan to prevent violence or loss of life in the future.

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