In the incident command system (ICS) structure, response documentation is formally found within the planning section. However, longer term emergency responses have demonstrated the need for a flexible and innovative role that encompasses a variety of activities, including response documentation, communications science, real-time evaluation of major themes, and information management. The paper aims to discuss this issue.
This need can be universally met through the functional role of “Historian,” a term specific to ICS, or in the case of public health response, incident management system (IMS). It should be noted that the Historian role discussed is not related to the academic study of history, but to archiving key successes and challenges during a response. Ideally the Historian should be activated at the start of an emergency response and remain active to capture the overall picture of the response, including internal information, such as lessons learned, response activities, and decision-making processes.
The Historian compiles details of response activities that inform leadership, donors and external communications products while alleviating pressures on the planning section. The primary, minimum output of an IMS Historian is a response timeline, which notes major internal and external events during a response with emphasis on major themes, lessons learned, and creating a user-friendly interface to display this information (see the list “Abbreviated Example of Hurricane Matthew Response Timeline” in the text).
In a world with competing priorities and ongoing emergencies, the Historian’s role of archiving details of response efforts can help the international public health community to share lessons learned and contribute to lower morbidity and mortality among those affected by emergencies.
Disclaimer: the findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Conflict of interest: all authors declare that they have no competing interests; no author has financial ties or disclosures or conflicts of interest related to the topic, material and conclusions presented in this paper.
Lefevre, A., Walter-Garcia, M., Hanson, K. and Smith-Easley, J. (2018), "Not your typical “historian”: Archiving successes and lessons learned during emergency response", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 27 No. 5, pp. 523-533. https://doi.org/10.1108/DPM-05-2018-0136
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