*The Beauty of Modular Checklists*

By: Boboroshi
25 January 2010

Many of the things we do involve planning for the unexpected events that occur. These range from low level annoyances, such as a power outage, to large scale disasters and more. "Plan the work, work the plan" is a phrase we should all ingrain in our minds.

Checklists are used in all sorts of professions to capture mission critical information and ensure that things are done in a certain order and to finally verify that they actually get done. A perfect example would be the checklists used by NASA astronauts in the moon landings. Those lists helped minimize risk and danger to all involved while ensuring tasks were completed in the proper order.

We can make checklists for our overall preps (there is a great one by Kwll in the member's section) but these lists I'm talking about are more for specific events or situations. Just creating a checklist is the first step. Once you've created a list, you need to run it as a drill. Sit down and review it afterwards and make notes of ways to improve it. Also note the times it takes to do certain things. You will likely under or overestimate times for common tasks. Knowing that it takes 30 minutes as opposed to 10 to accomplish loading up your BOV can make a big difference depending on what happens in those 20 minutes. That could mean the difference of beating the rush or getting stuck on the freeway.

As you've moved into the preparedness mindset you've (hopefully) spent some time identifying the likely natural threats in your AO, be it tornado, hurricane, earthquake, ice storm, winter storm, etc. You've spent some time thinking about the man made ones as well, be it a reactor meltdown, riots, terrorism, or TSHTF. While we can't possibly foresee every course that may befall us, there are many things that are shared by disasters. I have established, for myself, a modular approach to these lists. Many times things happen in similar fashion in disasters and to that end, let's examine some of them.

Common Disaster Elements

In looking at disasters and shared elements, I've broken them down into certain groupings triggered by a conditional element:

And so on and so forth. If the power goes out, it's time to run the power outage list, and I'm going to need to do similar things in each case to handle that part of the overall scenario. These sometimes act more as flow chart, with different issues arising based on conditions.

Here's a basic power outage list:

After you've built up a few of these, you can start to assemble them into a full on event-specific plan.

An Example: A Winter Storm Plan

So the weather report says a major winter storm is going to hit in 24 hours. You have some time to get ready, so let's get to it! Here's my personal list:

Base Actions

Review other lists (optional or dependent items):

Winter Heating list

Water Outage List

Putting it together

Now there are options to how to finalize these lists. You can keep them modular, which requires a little bit more planning and the ability to jump around in your head, or you can start making scenario specific checklists. You need to SITREP the specific scenario and be able to improvise and adapt to any situation. The benefits of this are that as you try these things out and revise the modules, they will improve across all your plans where that occurs.

Not only are the items in each list important, but how you do them becomes important as well. Why would you start a fire before filling up the wood on the porch? Well, first, it's probably cold outside and if the power is out, that means the temperature inside is going to be heading south sooner rather than later. If it's really messy outside and you end up getting wet, you need to be able to dry off and dry those clothes as well. No fire? No dice.

The end goal with this process would be to have very specific lists for each planned contingency.

Putting these very specific, very detailed end to end lists together helps in the heat of the moment because you don't have to decide what to do from a variety of lists at that time. You can also put these tasks onto index cards and hand them out to various members of your family or team.

Now make sure that you work up your own plans for situations. This is mainly to get you thinking about these things.

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