An Action Plan for an Extended Communications Failure


Sometimes your memory is just not good enough.

Table of Contents


After 50 or so years of Search &Rescue, Disaster work and similar stuff, I have worked out a "Notebook Protocol" which I pass on for whatever it is worth.  I use cheap 3x5 notebooks available in bulk packages from office supply stores. I keep a few scattered around in my gear and when "something starts" I grab one.

I put "formal notes" in the front and "scratch notes" in the back. Working each to the other end, writing on only one side of the sheet from each end. I mean I start formal notes from the front and flip the page to the next sheet, not writing on the backs. Eventually the pages fill but it is easy to follow the sequence.

Scratch notes are those scrawls that you make when someone gives you a phone number, frequency, directions or similar. I just scribble the information getting the important stuff down on paper.

The formal notes started from the front are a log in chronological order of everything that happens. Of course you can't track everything so you must learn to identify what will be useful later.

For me, it is any significant action or event that has an effect on the situation. I log every conversation and carefully note who said what, how to contact them if clarification is needed and what their "significanceā€¯ is to the event.

5/22/11 0300h: Respond to new Com. point.
Move ECRV 4712 to coordinates 12S1234 0034567 and establish satellite link.
Deploy wifi computers and VOIP phones for disaster response hq at that location.
Contact Susan Murphy HQ Director on TAC2 at location.
Per: Mike Jones. ECRV Mgr. 227-123-456

That kind of stuff.

I have been on disaster responses that lasted a month or longer and after awhile the log becomes your memory. Things get so confused and events blend into each other until personal memory becomes useless.

Now, doing this is not easy. There is a tendency to put writing it down off until later. Do it when it happens. But you need to practice. I suggest taking a notebook and making a log of your everyday activities. Then wait a week and see if you can honestly reconstruct the days events. Who did you talk to? What was said? What phone numbers did you call?

Like I said, this is not easy.