Capturing lessons learned: the importance of 'hot' debriefs

COVID-19 will be a long-running event that will require constant monitoring and response activities.

Collating learnings from crisis events is normally left until after an event. However, in this case, there is an opportunity to reflect on and learn from our response to date, so we can do things better from this point forward.

We strongly suggest capturing lessons now, to enact improvements that will help through this long-running response.


In emergency management jargon, a ‘during event’ debrief is called a ‘hot’ debrief. This is different from a formal ‘after event’ review. Below we highlight the differences between the two.

Participants Key response personnel Key response personnel and key stakeholders in response
Duration One session (2-3 hours) Multiple sessions
Findings Front of mind lessons Root cause analysis
Outputs 2-3 pages of bullet point notes 10-50 page detailed report


  • Choose a facilitator

    It is better if it is someone not directly involved in the response.

    An external facilitator can help your team navigate any sensitive issues, critically assess their response actions, and challenge group think. Alternatively use a senior manager who is not heavily involved in the response or stretched with other responsibilities.

  • Remember it’s not a blame game

    Capturing lessons is not about identifying failures or enacting blame. It is about learning through experience and sharpening your tactics and strategy for the next encounter.

  • Time it before losing it to memory

    Time the debrief sooner rather than later, while the events are still fresh in everyone’s minds.

  • Ask the right questions

    • What is working?
    • What isn’t working?
    • What do we need to do differently?
             Now?         In the future?
    • How can we ensure we do it differently?
             Now?         In the future?
    • Who will drive the implementation of the changes identified

We can help

Our team of experienced facilitators are available to run the debrief process or to provide advice on other aspects of recovery. For help, get in touch.

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