Debriefing Session: The Process of Self-Evaluation
Major incidents can exert significant stress on existing emergency systems as they attempt to address the fallout from such events. In the aftermath, there is a window of opportunity for evaluation where lessons can be noted and carried forward to increase the resilience of the organisations and systems involved. Recent meta-analysis has shown that properly conducted debriefs can improve both individual and team performance by 20–25% (Tannenbaum and Cerasoli, Hum Factors, 55, 231–45, 2013).
Simplistically, debrief is a series of questions about a completed mission or undertaking (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/debrief). However, when performed in a timely and systematic fashion, the major incident debrief permits those involved to communicate their experiences and identify potential improvements in operational performance. Major incident plans and training can then be modified to reflect these lessons.
The teaching and culture around the debrief has been developed amongst several different emergency services in different regions of the world, but learning from a major incident is often confined to the individuals or organisation directly involved. As the frequency of major incidents increases internationally, the process of recording and reporting information from them so that knowledge is shared beyond the organisations affected is a vital, though often neglected, part of the major incident debrief (Leaning and Guha-Sapir, N Engl J Med, 369, 1836–42, 2013; http://visionofhumanity.org/app/uploads/2017/11/Global-Terrorism-Index-2017.pdf; Hardy, BMJ, 31, 350, 2015).
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