Thursday, October 26, 2017


While common in military circles and some corporate environments, the After Action Report (or Review) -- AAR for short -- is not a part of most people's lives. When it comes to prepping for disasters large and small, the AAR might be a tool worth adding. 

The AAR is a formal method of reviewing a mission after it has been completed and looking for ways to improve the actions taken. The best ones I've seen  involved an outsider who could both referee the meeting and provide an unbiased view of the actions. While finding a neutral party to play outsider may not be as hard as you think, the biggest problem a prepper will have is the matter of trust: you have to trust the observer with information that you would probably not share with a stranger (to preserve Operational Security [OPSEC]) and you also need to trust that they are going to be unbiased in their opinions.

I've seen AAR meeting turn into “blame-storming” sessions, and it's no fun finding out that it's your turn to be the scapegoat. Unless there was permanent damage done to another person or something vital was destroyed, you need to be able to get past the personal and focus on the action/reaction effects. A referee can help keep the personal attacks to a minimum if they weren't involved in the actual events.

At the very least, you need to be honest with yourself and be able to look at how you reacted to a situation without bias. If you can't find anyone you trust to help you review your actions, you need to be able to critique yourself without either glossing over your failings or wallowing in despair of ever doing anything right. You probably did some things right and other things wrong; that's just part of being human. Being able to recognize the wrong things and trying to change them is part of being a prepper.

As a prepper, you're not likely to have formal missions, but you may run into situations where you use your training and supplies and want to improve any future uses of them. A few examples might clarify the ways an AAR process can help.
  1. You decide to test some new camping gear by taking it out for a weekend trip.
  2. You witness to an accident and provide first aid to the victims.
  3. The power goes out for several hours after sundown, but comes back on before bedtime.
These are all a few of my personal “missions” that I sat down after and reviewed. Some of the results of those reviews were;
  1. Always have a backup plan. If you're testing a new tent and sleeping bag and they both fail in the first few hours of use, you need to have something to use for the rest of the weekend. A rain fly that isn't waterproof and a sleeping bag with a busted zipper can make for a miserable night's sleep. Emergency food that isn't edible means you miss a few meals if you didn't pack anything else.
  2. Check your first aid supplies at least every month. My gauze and Coban wrap were fine, but my neoprene gloves had melted together from being stored in a hot car for too long. Working on a bleeding victim with only one gloved hand is a challenge! Fortunately, EMT's showed up as I was still doing my patient assessment. 
  3. Flashlights were working and had good batteries, but not everyone in the house knew where they were. This led to some heated “discussion” from the family member with anxiety and claustrophobia issues. Communications about emergency supply locations are improving. The radio and laptop computer were not enough to placate the anxiety demons, so more research is underway.
I don't want to speak for the other authors here, but I am personally willing and able to assist anyone who needs an “outsider” to help them review their AARs. As a Chaplain, I have a duty to keep most things confidential (the law gets confusing when crimes are involved) and I take duty and honor very seriously. I still have about 20 years before I can discuss a lot of the classified crap I did in the Army, so I'm used to keeping secrets.

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