Best practices for after-action review: turning lessons observed into lessons learned for preparedness policy. Academic Article uri icon


  • All-hazards preparedness and response planning requires ongoing individual, organisational and multi-jurisdictional learning. Disaster after-action reviews are an established emergency management practice to acquire knowledge through a process of analysing what happened and why, to improve the emergency response before the next crisis. After-action reviews help individuals and organisations learn, and are an essential step in the preparedness cycle. Human and animal health authorities have begun to employ after-action reviews for disaster preparedness and response among public health and Veterinary Services. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) encourages Members to establish after-action reviews and share best practice. The adoption of afteraction review is an essential step for all provincial, national and multinational emergency management authorities to mitigate the impact of disasters on human and animal health. Emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases with pandemic potential pose unique preparedness challenges, requiring high-level policy attention to close long-standing gaps. A review of after-action reports from the 2001 anthrax bioterror attacks and of naturally occurring infectious disease crises, from the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) to the 2014 Ebola epidemic, reveal a similar pattern of repeated weakness and failures. These phenomena are described as 'lessons observed but not lessons learned'. Most infectious disease outbreaks with pandemic potential are zoonotic and require a One Health approach to prevent, prepare for and respond to global health security crises. After-action reviews in a One Health security context are essential to improve the pandemic preparedness of public health and Veterinary Services. After-action reviews can also provide the evidence-based 'feedback loop' needed to galvanise public policy and political will to translate lessons observed into sustained and applied lessons learned.

published proceedings

  • Rev Sci Tech

altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Parker, G. W

citation count

  • 3

complete list of authors

  • Parker, GW

publication date

  • August 2020