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Defining a risk-informed framework for whole-of-government lessons learned: A Canadian perspective

Shaye K. Friesen, MA, Shelley Kelsey, PhD, J. A. (Jim) Legere, BA, MDS


Lessons learned play an important role in emergency management (EM) and organizational agility. Virtually all aspects of EM can derive benefit from a lessons learned program. From major security events to exercises, exploiting and applying lessons learned and “best practices” is critical to organizational resilience and adaptiveness. A robust lessons learned process and methodology provides an evidence base with which to inform decisions, guide plans, strengthen mitigation strategies, and assist in developing tools for operations. The Canadian Safety and Security Program recently supported a project to define a comprehensive framework that would allow public safety and security partners to regularly share event response best practices, and prioritize recommendations originating from after action reviews. This framework consists of several inter-locking elements: a comprehensive literature review/environmental scan of international programs; a survey to collect data from end users and management; the development of a taxonomy for organizing and structuring information; a risk-informed methodology for selecting, prioritizing, and following through on recommendations; and standardized templates and tools for tracking recommendations and ensuring implementation. This article discusses the efforts of the project team, which provided “best practice” advice and analytical support to ensure that a systematic approach to lessons learned was taken by the federal community to improve prevention, preparedness, and response activities. It posits an approach by which one might design a systematic process for information sharing and event response coordination—an approach that will assist federal departments to institutionalize a cross-government lessons learned program.


lessons learned, after action review, framework, continuous improvement, event response, emergency management

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