Work within the fire service involves frequent encounters with occupational hazards. Many fire departments try to minimize accidents and injuries through after action reviews (AARs).
A recent study1 explored what makes for a good or bad after action review, what makes a review satisfying to attendees, and its impact on group safety norms. The study also looked at the effects of good attendee behavior on desirable outcomes for AARs in high-reliability organizations (HROs).
Researchers suggested that good AARs help individuals clarify their role within the group and express the group’s safety norms. They give active and willing participants a venue to build a common picture of what happened and why. Wide participation in conversations and decision-making in meetings of this type can improve performance.
- Consistent and routine AARs are important for gaining a comfortable acceptance of them within a unit or crew.
- AARs provide a venue for team building and potentially enhancing the safety climate on crews.
- A good AAR makes attendees feel they have the ability to effect positive outcomes.
- It is vital that meeting organizers not only suggest, but strongly encourage, input from everyone.
- Organizers should emphasize that improved group performance — not retribution — is the desired outcome.
- Meeting facilitators must encourage a respectful and safe environment for free discussion that avoids assigning blame to individuals: look for solutions, not scapegoats.
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See also: Operational Lessons Learned in Disaster Response PDF 2.5 MB
1 Crowe, J., Allen, J. A., Scott, C. W., Harms, M., & Yoerger, M. (2017). After-action reviews: The good behavior, the bad behavior, and why we should care. Safety Science, 96, 84-92. doi:10.1016/j.ssci.2017.03.006