Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog


After-Action Reports (AARs) are vital tools federal, state, and local government entities and public and private sector companies can use to learn from their past emergency responses and inform future preparedness and response efforts. Traditionally, AARs are developed following a disaster, event, or exercise. However, not all disasters occur in a linear fashion. Pandemics, such as COVID-19, can stretch over extended periods of time and reoccur, even after a period of decline. With events like COVID-19, where information can change rapidly, collecting data throughout the response is not only imperative, but necessary. This method of continuous data collection, called real-time analysis, can have exponential impacts on the success of response efforts.

The What, Why, and How of After-Action Reporting

An AAR is an in-depth analysis of the management or response to an incident, exercise, or event. Creating an AAR requires meticulous activity, including gathering stakeholder feedback and collecting response data to validate processes that worked, and identify areas of improvement for processes that were not effective. The World Health Organization (WHO) identifies three phases common to all AARs:

  1. Objective observation: Establish how actions were truly implemented, not how they ideally would have happened according to existing plans and procedures.
  2. Analysis of gaps and contributing factors: Identify gaps between planning and practice; analyze what worked, what did not work, and why.
  3. Identification of areas for improvement: Determine actions to strengthen or improve performance and determine how to follow-up.

AARs are key for identifying strengths to be sustained, as well as potential areas of improvement, thus informing lessons learned, best practices, and recommendations for future planning, training, and exercise development. Identifying pitfalls, referred to as areas of improvements within AARs, sets the stage for corrective actions and initiates the process of creating more efficient response procedures and policies. All of this, in turn, informs and enhances preparedness efforts for the next disaster.

Hagerty AAR Expertise

Hagerty has a history of sustaining close partnerships with clients and developing and supporting numerous AARs and Improvement Plans (IPs). We have aided (and are currently aiding) clients with AARs for real-world events and exercises across the nation, including current response analysis and reporting for COVID-19. Each Hagerty AAR/IP is specifically tailored to meet the needs of the client jurisdiction/agency. By combining Hagerty’s expertise of AARs with our response capabilities, we can mobilize, collect data, perform analysis, and ultimately provide real-time analysis and reporting.

The process of building an AAR is instrumental to the overall success of the report. Our approach contains four key phases:

When conducting real-time analysis, Hagerty utilizes key performance indicators (KPIs) to monitor emergency response performance. KPIs are developed and defined together with our clients. Furthermore, Hagerty works with our clients to validate our methodology for assessing multiple functions of the response effort. For example KPIs can include:

  • How each Emergency Support Functions (ESFs) (or applicable organizational structure) performed mission essential tasks.
  • Was critical infrastructure and key resources established and sustained.
  • What critical dependencies on third-party providers and private sector entities exist.

Intertwining our AAR process with our ability to conduct real-time analysis on-site allows Hagerty professionals to create and implement operational procedures, processes, and plans that enhance future response and recovery activity.

Hagerty can help in the processes of real-time response analysis, development of AARs, and support the application process to maximize available funding. We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation to keep you well-informed. If you would like to work with us or have questions, reach out at development@hagertyconsulting.com

Ashley Wargo is a Senior Managing Associate out of Hagerty’s Austin, TX office and serves as the firm’s lead for after-action reporting. Working with clients around the country to develop reports associated with operations for everything from natural disasters to infrastructure failures. She works with clients to gather actionable information that can be used to formulate and prioritize improvement actions to enhance response efficiency and service delivery to municipalities and customers.

Additional Resources

The following federal resources are intended to support your organization become more resilient, be prepared, etc.