Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Magic of Checklists

Checklists have been used for quite a while in the airline industry, they are becoming more and more common in the medical industry, and many list-oriented people wouldn't think of starting off their day without cranking out a "to do" list before they head out the door in the morning.

For preparedness/survivalist-oriented folks, having checklists is an excellent way to be prepared for anything that may happen. Here's some lists to consider:
  • Travel often? Or even not so often? Having a checklist of what to take, what to do before you leave, and what to do when you come home is a great way to alleviate the "did I remember to turn off the stove?" thoughts that often race through people's minds as they pull into the airport parking garage.
  • How's your BOB? Hopefully you have taken a weekend or two to live out of your BOB and figure out what stuff you need, what stuff you forgot, and what stuff was just extraneous weight that would be better left at home. The art and science of refining your BOB has everything to do with actually writing down what is in it. This way you can continually refine your BOB, share your list with newbies who are just creating their first BOB, and/or have an instant shopping list in case you get caught far from home during a disaster...say while you are on vacation in Florida during hurricane season. Simply whip out your list, head to Walmart, and stock up quickly and completely.
  • Do you have hobbies? Most of my hobbies include doing activities away from home--shooting, backpacking, distance bike rides, Volksmarching, etc. There is nothing worse than getting miles away from home, breaking open my shooting bag, and seeing that I forgot to restock my ammo from my last excursion to the range. Ditto for forgetting Moleskin on distance hikes, a spare tube for my bike on an organized ride in the next state, or my sunglasses while walking around a new city. The way that I have solved this problem is to make a checklist for each of my hobbies. This way, I can quickly scan the list before I head out to the range, or go on a weekend backpacking or climbing trip, and ensure that I have all of the stuff with me that I will need.
  • Job action sheets are de rigour in the preparedness industry. You never know who will show up (or in fact, who will be left standing) after a major disaster. Most disaster managers of entities large and small keep job action sheets on hand which include step by step instructions for completing jobs that will need to be done after a disaster. This way, even the least-trained person who shows up to help will be able to do something, just by going down the job action sheet and completing tasks as they are outlined.
  • A babysitter info sheet is not only useful, but could save your kid's life. Like any other checklist, by providing simple, outlined information, you will be able to communicate with the person who is responsible for your children while you are out. This could be a lifesaver if, for example, your kid has peanut allergies. Other important information you would want to include, besides allergy info, includes your cell number, a contact number for a neighbor, how to deactivate the alarm system, who your kids can and can't play with, etc.
  • Checklists for the family are also useful. Right after a disaster, especially if you are not home, do you want your spouse wondering if they should cut the electricity or the gas first? Do you want them to decide, in a high stress situation, who to evacuate to or where to meet up with you should communication systems be down? If information is important enough to save a life, it is important enough to write down and share with others.
The bottom line is that the more critical a task, or the more time consuming, or the more frustration-inducing should you forget something, the more important it is to create a checklist to aid your memory and provide guidance as to what you need to have/do/remember.


  1. As historical reenactors, I don't know what my boyfriend and I would do without checklists. We interpret pretty much every major war from the French & Indian War all the way up through Vietnam, and as such, we have an entire walk-in closet of gear, uniforms, and firearms. My boyfriend and I were both reenactors before we met, and combining our gear was a nightmare, as we both tended to just keep stuff in duffle bags or crates. Recently I went through and put all of the non-uniform items (uniforms have to be on hangers) into impression-specific bins, and taped a checklist for each impression onto the lid. Since many of our items overlap (I use the same hat for Vietnam that I do for Algeria, and my Soviet boots get used for my war correspondent impression, etc), it's easy to forget something because it's not with the rest of the impression's gear, so having the checklist easily at hand really helps.

    One day I want to make a binder instead with laminated pages, one for each impression, so that we can actually *check off* each item, without having to worry about wasting paper each time.

    Sorry for the weird angle on this, but I definitely agree, and wanted to show how I use checklists within my hobbies. And yes, firearms are an added level of complexity. I ended up not being able to shoot at our last WWII event because we grabbed the wrong blanks.

  2. As A list maker from way back, I appreciate the validation. I used to tell people that I couldn't remember things because I was so tired working the night shift. Then I was off work for about 6 months a while ago, and I wasn't any better! Guess it was just me!

  3. High praise for this suggestion

    We got them posted in a kitchen cupboard, garage for load-out, in cars, and office.

    We also have "default" plans for all family if commo is down - no phones, no I-net, blackouts ....

    I'm less than crisp under stress, so a written action list ? Beautiful !

    I like the blog muy much

    Ohio Dude

  4. Glad to see I am not the only (in my case, compulsive) list maker here!