AMU Emergency Management Health & Fitness Public Safety Resource

After-Action Reports Reveal Critical Management Flaws

By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

Emergency managers often stress the importance of after-action reports because they highlight the key points of how an emergency was managed. These reports provide lessons to be incorporated into emergency management plans, so that managers will be better equipped to handle similar incidents in the future.

After-action reports also call attention to other aspects of dealing with emergencies. It is important for emergency managers to:

  • Avoid falling in love with one emergency management plan.
  • Be ready to adapt to any circumstances.
  • Understand that emergencies are often chaotic and difficult to manage.

NPF Report Highlights Emergency Management Mistakes during Pulse Nightclub Shooting

An article published by the Emergency Management and Response – Information Sharing and Analysis Center mentioned that the National Police Foundation (NPF) conducted an objective, in-depth after-action review of the Orlando Fire Department’s response to the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting. The review was created at the request of the City of Orlando and the Orlando Fire Department. It provided direction and recommendations that were beneficial to all fire and emergency medical services responders nationwide.

The review acknowledged that the scene of the shooting was particularly chaotic and difficult to manage from the start. It explained that mutual assistance agreements were in place, but communication among responding agencies was poor. Also, there was no unified command at the scene.

The Pulse nightclub shooting left 49 persons dead and another 53 wounded. Such a high number of casualties can be difficult to triage because it is always far more difficult to work a mass casualty incident than a routine one-on-one shooting.

After-Action Reports Make a Vital Difference to Improving Emergency Management

After-action reports highlight the lessons learned from an incident and might reveal other factors and flaws that could complicate response efforts. Ultimately, these reports are painful reminders to those who work emergency scenes, but they are always important to have.

Allison G. S. Knox teaches in the fire science and emergency management departments at American Military University and American Public University. Focusing on emergency management and emergency medical services policy, she often writes and advocates about these issues. Allison serves as an Intermittent Emergency Management Specialist with the Department of Health and Human Services, as At-Large Director of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians and as Chancellor of the Southeast Region on the Board of Trustees with Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society in Social Sciences. She is also chair of Pi Gamma Mu’s Leadership Development Program. Prior to teaching, Allison worked for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. and in a Level One trauma center emergency department. She is an emergency medical technician and holds multiple graduate degrees.

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