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Evaluate the Response of Emergency Preparedness Efforts

After an emergency or disaster, it is important to evaluate the response. Doing so will support continued recovery and build resilience. A post-emergency evaluation should focus on assessing the relevance and success of response activities — what worked well and why. It should also focus on identifying and applying lessons learned for planning, response, and recovery.

Post-emergency evaluation should:

  • Prioritize community involvement, including local and community-based organizations
  • Ensure inclusivity and equity of diverse community populations, particularly those disproportionately affected by the emergency or disaster
  • Link to frameworks used in disaster recovery
  • Identify improvements for future emergencies in order to support and strengthen capacity for future preparedness and response
  • Monitor, evaluate, and learn from actual events, both positive and negative
  • Collect information to communicate to others and identify strategies that can be shared with other rural communities

After Action Reports

An After Action Report (AAR) is a detailed review and summary of the disaster and response process. The purpose is to analyze decisions and identify opportunities to increase capacity for future emergencies. Communities should complete an AAR immediately after the emergency or disaster event. Common elements of an AAR are an event overview or summary, analysis of capabilities, conclusions, and improvement plans. Common questions to ask when creating an AAR include:

  • Were the response strategies appropriate for this hazard?
  • Were the communication and response timely and coordinated?
  • What were the strengths and weaknesses of the response?
  • What gaps exist and how should they be addressed?

An AAR offers a time to reflect on lessons learned for future scenarios and inform future preparedness planning. The COVID-19 After Action Toolkit provides resources and examples of AARs specific to COVID-19 response and recovery.

Resource Considerations

When evaluating a response, it is important for rural communities to consider evaluation goals, timelines, and available resources. AARs focus on an organization's activities, and it is also important to gather feedback from the community. This may include determining community perspectives on the effectiveness of the response. Data collection tools, assessment software, report production resources, time, and expertise are some of the resources needed that organizations must consider.

Partners are important for supporting evaluation and can help with establishing goals and executing evaluations in a timely manner. For example, nonprofit or non-governmental organizations involved in disasters can assist with data collection as they provide services to community members, local universities and academia also can support data collection and ongoing assessment, and emergency management organizations can interpret lessons learned. Once the response is evaluated, communities and organizations can integrate the insights into their recovery efforts and preparedness plans for future disasters.

Resources to Learn More

Emergency Response Reviews
Provides information on post-emergency evaluations with links to toolbox content, publications, trainings, and examples of After Action Reviews.
Organization(s): World Health Organization

Lessons Learned from School Crises and Emergencies
Defines “After Action Reports” and shows how the reports can be interpreted into lessons learned.
Organization(s): Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Date: 2007