Why and how you can ‘hotwash’ after a disaster

Hotwash after a crisis

On the earth of emergency preparedness, a hotwash is a time period assigned to the after-action debrief in emergencies like pure disasters. The time period originated within the army, the place troopers used extraordinarily sizzling water to take away residue and particles from their weapons after firing.

Everybody concerned in a disaster response needs to be a part of the hotwash train. It’s the chance to grasp the place issues went proper, the place issues went incorrect, and what associated enhancements could be made to the disaster response program.



In a disaster, most individuals simply wish to resume their regular lives. They naturally are grateful that it’s over. Nevertheless, that’s one step wanting a full finish to administration of a disaster. It’s important to carry your disaster group again collectively and to undergo a hotwash train. The training that you simply get and the views of various group members are crucial to choice making going ahead.

A hotwash is not only for operations and logistics groups — disaster communicators equally ought to make a powerful funding of time reviewing how the disaster response performed out. Listed below are a number of questions that needs to be requested throughout any disaster communications hotwash:

  • How ready have been you total?  Many crises are anticipated — and in some circumstances, sensible communicators have ready template language for the disaster. Eager about the assets that have been accessible, and what was lacking, can enhance future actions in disaster.
  • How did your spokespeople do?  In a disaster, assured, credible voices are important to constructing belief and reassuring crucial audiences. Topic-matter consultants and leaders needs to be skilled to be efficient in delivering key messages in a disaster.
  • Have been the suitable individuals on the desk?  A disaster requires a group of knowledgeable, related members to share reviews and reply questions. Gaps on the disaster administration group can create gaps in response.
  • Have been we profitable in reaching crucial audiences?  Nice disaster response language is irrelevant if stakeholders don’t obtain it. Understanding who must be engaged or knowledgeable and sustaining open, acceptable traces of communication issues. As a reminder, in a disaster, it’s straightforward to concentrate on exterior teams — don’t overlook staff and different inside audiences. They are often ambassadors and provide priceless insights on office and neighborhood perceptions.
  • Did the response stop the disaster from escalating and decrease its reputational impression?  Whereas tougher to measure, this is a crucial dialogue to have in a hotwash. A great disaster response can cut back the chance of the disaster evolving and rising, and the suitable communications can mitigate towards a lack of belief and confidence.
  • If media or social media have been an element within the disaster, how did it go?  Managing information media and social media chatter will be difficult in a disaster. Ensuring a group is nicely ready to navigate the general public face of the disaster is deeply essential. Know who’s chargeable for triaging media inquiries and who’s monitoring social platforms and have them recurrently report back to the disaster administration group.
  • How did operations and communications collaborate?  In a disaster, many various departments and features have tasks. The operational response wants to tell the communications response — and vice versa. Selections are being made rapidly, and these conversations can lower the chance of errors.

And the over-arching questions that ought to at all times be requested in a hotwash is: What didn’t go nicely and what could possibly be finished otherwise subsequent time? Illuminating the strengths and weaknesses of the response creates the go-forward path and identifies classes discovered.

Hinda Mitchell is president of Encourage PR Group.