Crisis Logs That Work For You

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Keep track of the situation and what everyone’s doing with simple logs


Crisis logs are often seen as a burden but they can make the leader and team much more effective, if done right. They are important for a number of reasons:

  1. They make the crisis team more effective by making it clear what has been done and what still needs to be done. This clarity translates into speedy action by the team and helps the crisis manager and team leaders maintain good control.

  2. They act as a chronological record of the events, which allow team members to develop a common understanding of the situation (often called a common operating picture) and work towards common goals.

  3. They make it easier to produce written and verbal briefings for management, media, new members etc.

  4. They can allow the executive or strategic oversight team to monitor how the crisis is developing.

  5. They serve as an important legal records.

  6. They are essential for post-crisis evaluations.


There are many different ways to design your logs. Some organisations use one "master log" that combines information, decisions and tasks; however this produces a document that is difficult to read (and sort) and makes tracking assigned and completed tasks more difficult than it needs to be. An easier way is to have 2 logs: one that captures information on the situation and one that logs all the actions of the crisis team. 

The situation log:  This is a record of all information the team receives on the situation, recorded in chronological order. Basically, any info the team gets goes here. This log is used to keep everyone updated on the general situation and to produce verbal and written situation briefings. It can also be projected on a screen for everyone to see. If you’re using the 4Q meeting technique, the information log is updated during question round 1.

The action log: This is the team's to-do list. It is a record of all assigned and completed tasks.  This helps the leader and team to easily track all their actions and decisions. It can be easily projected on a screen for everyone to see. If you’re using the 4Q meeting technique, the action log is updated during question round 3 and 4.


Organise the log in a way that feels comfortable and useful for the note-taker, leader and team (yes all three). Of course, this should be done ahead of time. Keep in mind that the note-taker must be able to use the log easily during meetings without falling behind so avoid the temptation to include too many columns or make it overly fancy. Here’s an example:

Situation Log:

  • Headings: Date | Local Time | Subject | Information | Provided by | Received by |

  • Example: 01/02/2018 | 14:00 | Status of Joe S | Joe S found at Aker Hospital | Seb H | Mary T |

Action log:

  • Headings: Date | Local Time | Action | Assigned to | Assigned by | Deadline | Completed?

  • Example: 01/02/2018 | 14:10 | Call wife of Joe S to update her on his condition and location | Seb H | Liz A | 14:30 | No


Crisis management software is increasingly common but most organisations still rely on Word and Excel. If you’re not using special software consider using a shared document such as Google Docs or Office 365.  Both allow for simultaneous writing/editing but Google Docs is free. Multiple people can modify the logs at the same time without creating “version conflicts”. Google Docs has a number of useful security settings that can limit downloading, printing, sharing, and remove users that no longer need access. 


You want logs that are short and easy to read. Think bullet points, not detailed meeting minutes. Use simple language and avoid acronyms. If you receive a lot of information at the same time, break it down into several easy-to-read entries. For the situation log, record only facts and events that have occurred and avoid writing down projections and assumptions (since this leads to blurry logs and can have legal ramifications in a lawsuit). The Team Leader or someone senior on the team should review and correct the log every day to ensure its accuracy.


A trained, skilled and empowered notetaker makes everyone's work much easier in a crisis. They must be familiar with the organisation (and it’s acronyms), know exactly how to use the logs and how to provide/control access (if using shared docs), and confident enough to raise questions and discrepancies with the leader and team members. Being at the core of the info management system, this person is often one of the first persons to spot information gaps and overdue/forgotten tasks on the to-do list. Like all core team members, it’s a key position that should be staffed appropriately.

Have any tips or what approach works best for you? Please share in the comments below so that we can learn from one another. Thanks!