The recent rash of natural disasters to hit the United States, including hurricanes in places like Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida, and wild fires in California, have been traumatic not only to the communities they struck, but to the United States as a whole, as Americans from all over traveled, donated, and mourned in support of their fellow countrymen that were in harm’s way.  Unfortunately, disasters of these sort are often unavoidable, but like any dark cloud looming over our heads, a silver lining remains, if you just look hard enough.

In the military, risk is an inherent part of the job, but a great deal of effort is put forth toward mitigating that risk in all the ways possible, using a combination of human and technological assets to limit the ways in which things might go wrong – but how are these risk-averting concepts developed before they can be employed by the next wave of American war fighters?  Well, more often than not, those lessons are learned the hard way; through operations gone wrong, mistakes being made, or the world generally conspiring against you.  Hence the incredible value of what are commonly referred to as “after-action reports,” which offer those both the directly involved and uninvolved alike the opportunity to pour over the circumstances that lead to tragedy, victory, or both, and identify ways to help try to stack the deck in our favor on future operations.

When calamity strikes in the civilian world, the same methodology can be employed to help better prepare for the next time such an event occurs, and by taking an objective step back and looking past the sorrow, most disasters are willing to offer at least some bit of wisdom in exchange for the loss of life and livelihood.  Here are a few tips I learned by experiencing and covering the recent wave of natural disasters to strike the United States.