Use of after action reports (AARs) to promote organizational and systems learning in emergency preparedness

  • E. S
  • F. A
  • P.D. B
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Many public health and healthcare organizations use formal knowledge management practices to identify and disseminate the experiences gained over time. The "lessons-learned" approach is one such example of knowledge management practice applied to the wider concept of organizational learning. In the field of emergency preparedness, the lessons-learned approach stands on the assumption that learning from experience improves practice and minimizes avoidable deaths and negative economic and social consequences of disasters. In this project, we performed a structured review of AARs to analyze how lessons learned from the response to real-incidents may be used to maximize knowledge management and quality improvement practices such as the design of public health emergency preparedness (PHEP) exercises. We chose as a source of data the "Lessons Learned Information Sharing (" system, a joined program of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security DHS and FEMA that serves as the national, online repository of lessons learned, best practices, and innovative ideas. We identified recurring challenges reported by various states and local public health agencies in the response to different types of incidents. We also strove to identify the limitations of systematic learning that can be achieved due to existing weaknesses in the way AARs are developed.




E., S., F., A., & P.D., B. (2012). Use of after action reports (AARs) to promote organizational and systems learning in emergency preparedness. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. E. Savoia, Department of Biostatistics and Division of Policy Translation and Leadership Development, Harvard School of Public Health, 401 Park Drive, Landmark Center, Boston, MA 02215, USA. Retrieved from

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