Communicating disasters: After action reviews as a genre of science communication

Communicating disasters: After action reviews as a genre of science communication

Author: Eric Kennedy – Arizona State University, Canada

Around the globe, emergency services are tasked with responding to a wide range of disasters. Whether floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, or terrorist attacks, these events are nearly always characterized by an imperfect response. This has spurred on a specific genre of scientific communication, the “after action report,” used by governments and emergency response agencies to determine where their responses fell short and how to act more effectively in the future. This genre of communication is meant to reach several audiences (including governments, the public, and the responders themselves), and simultaneously share lessons learned while avoiding the potential for accusations and admissions of guilt or insufficiently. Moreover, there’s a recent trend to after action reports that emphasize learning rather than placing blame.

In this paper, I consider a series of after action reports on major wildfires that occurred over the past 15 years. I argue that these reports represent a distinct genre of scientific communication worth investigating, and identify the ‘language’ of the after action report. Using a comparative analysis, I argue that there are more and less productive formats of the after action report, and I identify best practices for this genre of communication that could lead to better learning and emergency response.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Science
Area of interest: Investigating science communication practices