10 Tips for Time Management During Crises

big time

I cannot think of any time where time management is more critical than during a crisis. Those of you who are first responders, who have served in the military or who have experienced life or death situations likely understand this, but most other people do not.

Until you have experienced the effect a true crisis has on your mind and body, it is very difficult to imagine. You might think you have time management down, but what if right this second, you hear on the radio or TV that nuclear meltdown has occurred or a nuclear weapon has been detonated nearby, and that fallout will reach your location in 30 minutes.

Too Many Questions

{adinserter bph}How are you dressed at this moment? What will you to take with you? Will you have time to warn or collect your family? Where are they? For this scenario, let us say that your bug out bag is squared away. You can just grab that and toss it into your vehicle since you would not have to flee on foot.

But what else or who else will you take with you? Are they all packed and ready to go? What will you need to bring for them? What season of year is it? What is the weather like? Where is your EDC gear such as your wallet, keys, cell phone, knife and sunglasses? Where is your concealed carry gear? Well you can just decide real quick, grab what you need and head out, right? … Not so much.

You see, when you get the call or hear the message on TV or radio, as soon as you hear the warning, you will experience a huge adrenalin spike. You will probably get tunnel vision and tunnel hearing. Your body will tell you to run, but the smart thing to do would be to collect what you need before you head out the door. You may lack fine motor coordination.

It will be difficult to think clearly. You will find that you and remember, “Where is this?” … “Where did I put that?” “What is the weather like?” “What will it be like tomorrow?” “Where is everyone else?” Emergency responders of all types have been dealing with this issue since they were first established. How do they deal with it? I’ll list some “do’s” and “do not’s” to help you make the most effective use possible of your time in a crisis.


1. Organize Turnout Bags: You have seen them … on TV if not in real life. Hopefully you already have one, but if not, right now would be a good time to start putting one together. This is typically the point where the rookies say, “But Cache, I already have a bug out bag and a get home bag.

Are you telling me I need another bag?! How many bags am I going to need?! How many bags can one person realistically carry?!” I am not painting them with a broad brush simply because they do not agree with me when I tell you I am pretty sure that the person chiming in is new to emergency preparedness.

I know that they are likely a newbie because if they had responded to an emergency before or even practiced a bug out drill, they would not have said that. They would have said something more along the lines of, “Hey, that is a good idea.” because it is very hard to think straight when you are in a hurry because lives hang in the balance.

Until you have a few emergency deployments or responses under your belt, meaningful thought and fine motor coordination go right out the window as soon as you get the call. A turnout bag should contain everything that goes on your person as opposed to inside whatever bag you reach for in that type of emergency.

Checklist for a sample turnout bag:

  • Watch with stop watch: you will need to keep an eye on the time. Start the watch counting so you do not lose track of time.
  • Clipboard with pen and checklist.
  • Turnout bag: pack/duffle, rolling duffle or some another bag of appropriate size and construction for your purposes.
  • Footwear & socks: a pack will only do so much good if you head out the door with it in flip flops or high heels.
  • Clothing: Season-appropriate outdoor clothing provides shelter and decreases the weight of your pack. It is more comfortable to carry weight distributed over the body than in a pack.
  • Sturdy trouser belt: and suspenders if needed.
  • Fixed-blade sheath knife (on a dangler): I attach my sheath knife to my trouser belt with a dangler so it will not come off if I take off any outer belts or my pack and so it will not interfere with my pack belt or body armor.
  • Sidearm: however you carry it, make sure that you can get at your sidearm smoothly and that it does not interfere with your pack. If you do not want it to come off when you doff your other gear, attach a drop down panel such HSG’s Padded Leg Panel to your trouser belt like your sheath knife. Those particular panels have plenty of room for a spare magazine or magazines, a flashlight and a multi-tool in addition to your sidearm.
  • Multi-tool: I carry my multi-tool in a pouch on my sheath knife’s sheath or on a drop down panel or dangler to keep it out of the way of my pack.
  • Hat: season and weather-appropriate.
  • Basic SERE gear: in my opinion, this is best kept in your pockets so you will not ever set it down. If you wear it on your belt or pack and then take it off to rest, you may not have it when you need it and if it doesn’t go in your pack, it should go in your turnout bag and/or on a checklist.
  • Gloves: season and weather-appropriate.
  • Headwear: season and weather-appropriate.
  • Hiking stick or trekking poles: if you use them.
  • Cliff bars: it is good to have a couple of granola bars or Cliff Bars on your person in case you get the call well after your last meal. That way you do have to dig into your pack right away.
  • Base layer: season and weather-appropriate.
  • Outer layer: season and weather-appropriate
  • Bandana: shemagh or keffiyeh, balaclava, Shemaglava or face cover of some sort
  • Field shield wipe: or sunscreen & insect repellant wipes
  • Wet wipe: large, single.
  • Batteries & compact battery tester:
  • Rx medicines: some need to be refrigerated or are controlled so it may be difficult to store them in your turnout bag.

2. Use Checklists: Include a mini-clipboard, laminated checklist and a grease pencil in each turnout bag. In a crisis, people are often still able to follow simple instructions or checklists, but they are not likely to produce quality thought or remember things, sometimes even very important things. Using checklists will keep you on track and help you to not forget anything important since you will prepare your checklists in advance of any crisis, while your mind is clear.

Checklists save money. Many people cannot afford to prepare multiple packs containing (essentially the same) top quality gear. The checklist will go in your turnout bag or its document pocket. List everything that will need immediate attention. List any things that you cannot afford to store multiples of since you will need to gather them up, such as your sidearm, light, cell phone or other EDC gear.

For each major category of threat, such as earthquake, EMP (electromagnetic pulse) or NBC (nuclear biological chemical) create at least two checklists. One should be a To Pack checklist that lists gear next to checkboxes. The other should be a To Do checklist that lists tasks to complete.

By using checklists, you will not forget to pack critical gear at the last minute or to perform any critical tasks while rushed and preoccupied. I will give a short example of a checklist to prepare for a bug out. I will not list everything, just enough to illustrate the idea.

Sample to do checklist for a bug out:

  • Make the decision: if the criteria that trigger your bug out plan have been met.
  • Alert your group: anyone going with you needs to know to prepare or they will not be ready in time so you should play Paul Revere right away and let them know you will be leaving in 15 minutes.
  • Canteen check: verify that canteen and hydration bladder are present, freshly filled and will not slosh.
  • Sidearm check: verify presence, that it is loaded and chamber checked.
  • Spare mag: verify presence and ammunition.
  • Flashlight: verify presence and function.
  • Sunglasses
  • Keys
  • Wallet
  • Cell phone & spare battery: verify presence, charge state and function.
  • PLB/GPS: presence and function.
  • Communications check: verify radio(s) and head sets for presence, charge state, frequency and function.
  • Gear check: jump up and down to make sure your load is secure and does not rattle.
  • Fuel vehicle: top of fuel tanks and gas cans.
  • Pre-travel vehicle check: check tire pressure, oil, coolant, clean glass, etc.
  • Hide a key.
  • Disconnect power.
  • Lock up.

3. Put First Things First: In many scenarios, being late is not an option. List and do the most important things and gear to pack first because you will leave at a set time.

4. List Threats: Make a list of all known threats. Take geography, climate, natural resources, population density, geology and other factors into account before ruling anything out.

5. Assess Risk: Most risk assessment models are based in the following formula, Risk = Likelihood * Impact. This formula can be weighted and applied to pretty much any field to quantify or qualify risk. List known threats, assign values for likelihood or probability and impact such as severity and duration, to determine the risk they present. Determine the risk associated with each threat and start planning for the greatest risk. Work your way down to the lesser risks.

Create a Plan for Each Threat:a plan that substantially reduces one risk, might dramatically increase risk if executed in reaction to a different crisis. Since what works for one, might make another worse, you need to match the plan you follow to the risk you face.

6. Prepare Ahead of Time: A crisis is not the time to fly by the seat of your pants. A little preparation beforehand goes a long way. As you plan, you will create lists of things that you need to accomplish in order to effect any given plan. You will encounter obstacles, such as running out of money.

Just keep in mind that a lack of funding might keep you from checking an item off your to do list, but do not let that stop you. Instead, look for the next most important thing you can do that you do not need money for. Keep pushing preparations forward and do not let an obstacle halt progress of tasks that it does not directly prevent.

7. Practice: Stage both scheduled and unscheduled drills. It is very satisfying to see your time improve. Stage drills that help you improve and debrief afterwards to discuss what can be done more effectively in the future. You will very quickly learn what does and does not work and identify details or issues that you could not possibly have anticipated. 


1. Hesitate: Once the criterion to trigger a plan have been met, pull the trigger. The criterion must be clear cut. If they are mushy and too open to interpretation, you may go into denial and fail to act in time. This can be costly.

2. Practice in an Unrealistic Fashion: The idea behind training drills is to make you and your team more effective and to desensitize you to some of the stresses you will experience. The last thing you want to do is to instill a dangerous sense of overconfidence in yourself or your team.

3. Apply a Single Plan to Mitigate All Risks: People usually fall into this trap by generalizing risks, lumping them all into a single risk they term TEOTWAWKI, SHTF, Armageddon, etc.as opposed to identifying individual risks and planning for each threat.

It had been said that those who are good with a hammer, you tend to see everything as a nail, even though it is not always the right tool for the job. Any action you plan or take should be to mitigate risk, increasing you chances of survival.


This article has been written by Cache Valley Prepper for Survivopedia.

Written by

Cache Valley Prepper is the CEO of Survival Sensei, LLC, a freelance author, writer, survival instructor, consultant and the director of the Survival Brain Trust. A descendant of pioneers, Cache was raised in the tradition of self-reliance and grew up working archaeological digs in the desert Southwest, hiking the Swiss Alps and Scottish highlands and building the Boy Scout Program in Portugal. Cache was mentored in survival by a Delta Force Lt Col and a physician in the US Nuclear Program and in business by Stephen R. Covey. You can catch up with Cache teaching EMP survival at survival expos, teaching SERE to ex-pats and vagabonds in South America or getting in some dirt time with the primitive skills crowd in a wilderness near you. His Facebook page is here. Cache Valley Prepper is a pen name used to protect his identity. You can send Cache Valley Prepper a message at editor [at] survivopedia.com

Latest comments

  • This is an excellent article ! I live in Colorado. About 2 years ago we had a forest fire near our home. Our house did not burn down, but the smoke and soot were so thick that a person could not breathe. Within minutes, police and fire units began evacuating our neighborhood. We literally had a few minutes to get out of our home. I always keep some gear in my vehicle, but deciding what to take, with no time to think, was very chaotic. We checked on our neighbors, grabbed a few things, and left. A list would have been very helpful. Also, a few hundred dollars in small bill would have been nice. Thanks for this excellent article.

    • Tom, go to the Bug Out Bag Guide. They have an excellent check off list for what to carry in a BOB. It’s printable and a great place to start. Yes, they sell BOB’s and such, but like other sites, I learn from them what may be good for me and put my own together. After reading different articles, I sometimes make changes for the better. Good luck.

  • Good article great reminder. I have my EDC bag which goes with me when I’m not in my truck. My BOB is always in my truck. I also have two large duffel bags with clothing for my daughter, wife and I which is kept in the basement ready to grab. We live in the mountains of Central Utah, one of the most wildfire prone areas in the state. My wife and daughter have been ordered evacuate twice since 2007, while I was off fighting the fire as a volunteer firefighter. Needless to say, having everything you need, easy to hand, is soooo important.

  • Thank you for this and other very helpful articles.

  • I don’t understand this entire post.
    * Yes, I’m new to prepping.
    * I haven’t gone through an emergency before.
    * I don’t understand why we need multiple bags.
    * I don’t understand why the word “turnout” was selected.
    * I don’t understand why things in the turnout bag are the same things in the bug-out bag. How many fricking sidearms do I have laying around in bags, when they should be in the gunsafe anyway?
    * Where is this bag kept? At home? In the trunk (so it can get stolen?)
    * Why not just give us a downloadable pdf checklist to print for filling each bag, and another downloadable pdf checklist of things to do when bugging out.

    I don’t understand the plan, man.

    • Perry, I have my duffel bags packed with mostly cold weather gear fr the family, and would only take them if we had to leave by vehicle. My bug out bag which I keep in my truck is only if I have to leave the truck for whatever reason. I don’t keep weapons in any of my bags. I always keep my sidearm on me, and I don’t leave home without it. I do keep .22 LR ammo in my BOB for my 10/22 which I intend to take with me whenever I have to bug out. Since I leave my BOB in my truck all the time, when I’m in my wife’s vehicle, I have my EDC, with just enough needed gear and staples to get me safely out of harms way. This is just what I do but I hope it helps you to understand a little better.

      • @Marty: Thank you, sir. I understand a little better now.

    • No one realizes the importance of being ready NOW, unless they keep up with the read. Pay attention, it is real! Joe

    • Hey, thanks to all the haters for the thumbs-down’s. Real encouraging to someone here trying to learn to prepare, and who might even have your back one day. So many on these sites talk about “community” and how we all have to stand together, but don’t actually convey that to real people in the meantime. I go to a gun rally, and I’ve never seen so many angry people in one room. I get it, you are mad. Maybe decide more specifically who that should be. Hint: it’s NOT the people trying to reach out to the survivalist community…

      • All the thumbs down are not about your questions (which were good), they’re about your attitude. Out of your 3 postings, only your answer to Marty was nice. The other 2, as you would attribute to the rest of us, were full of anger.

  • I always try to gain knowledge from the best in any field and Perry I can only suggest you take everyone’s opinions and/or strategies and convert them into your own.However,if you go back to the basics,you’ll see what you need vs what you can carry and then you can prepare on your own time,with your own list of Do’s and Don’t.

  • Thanks, I’m 63 and we never know what will happen next.I am all for learning.we can never know to much.

  • I carry a go kit in my truck at all times. Plus two other bags that are by my front door. I am retired military, been through numerous survival course, certs trained, have a concealed carry weapon permit, which I carry at all times, plus spare magizines and ammo. I also carry extra water, and food in my truck too.

    • Why two other bags by the front door? Too much stuff to fit into just one, or it’s part of a specific strategy?

  • I am military trained(but at 75, not nearly as good as I once was.) I went through the Hurricane Andrew disaster, in Florida, in ’91. My sister and I sent the rest of the family north, to stay with relatives, and we battened down, as much as you can in a mobile home park. We were in the center of Homestead, right at ground zero for the storm. I had extra clothing, and even some long outdated military rations, in the back of my truck, as well as several firearms.
    The house, and almost everything else in town, was demolished. The Government still doesn’t want to admit that the damage was caused by over 40 tornadoes that were in the back of the storm. You could look at the pictures, and see the zig-zag paths of destruction. It was 10 days before anyone from the government began to wonder what had happened to Homestead. Miami had barely gotten scratched, but Homestead AFB. was destroyed, and that was supposed to be nuke-proof. The stacks and cooling towers at Turkey point , the nuke generating facility for south Fla. were cracked, and they too were supposed to be missile proof. It was only about 6 miles east of the center of Homestead, and in the direct path of Andrew. We, my sister and I, cooked over an old charcoal grill, and Life magazine had a picture of my sister enjoying a cool bath in an old bathtub we found in the yard. The heat was oppressive and it rained every day, but thanks to the tools and supplies I had in my old truck, we did ok. See the reply I posted at the end of your e-mail, as to my current “preps”

  • In response to Perry. You sound like and come across as a whiner! If you belong to a group, and there is a catastrophe, it’s very possible you will be “accidentally” left somewhere or just plain eliminated! Cold words but true!

    • @Ed: I don’t view truth as “cold words.” Thanks for your further encouraging words. Don’t worry, I leave groups long before they leave me. Lack of respect is almost always my reason…

      • Perry, I do not know you but I would venture to say that you talk more than you listen! You think that respect should come before proving yourself! One mouth, two ears: listen more to learn more!

        • Smart.

  • Lot of interesting information. Wonderful side.

  • If you live in a target zone, it could just be your “day,” to go, or be in a catastrophe. You had better have prepared and hope for the best by now.
    The whole concept of bugging out, is mostly a bad idea. The highways will be both a huge traffic jam, and blocked by road blocks, and everyone running around like decapitated chickens is a huge formula for disaster.
    If you have a real plan, thats another thing, but this entire concept of everyone running for the country, is just stupid. You will not get a welcome mat rolled out, with a big old picnic table full of country food.Those people are barely making it in PObamsa economy, and getting by like everyone else. You will be turned back, if lucky. Shot, if unlucky.
    First, what makes you think the countryside can absorb the city and suburbs populations? The woods will be hunted out, the creeks fished, farms looted and pillaged, in days. Then you will have roving bands of thugs.
    People need to assess the threats of their geographical area, and plan to deal directly with them, and stay home, or decide now to make a change in lifestyle, before it happens.

  • Did anyone watch the video at the end of this article? It’s an eye-opener to me. I read somewhere that the person who will survive won’t be the richest, the smartest or the toughest person. It’s the one who is open-minded (willing to learn something new), flexible, just like a bamboo tree: bending with the wind, never breaking. Eventually it’s stronger than the mighty oak. I’ll keep the bamboo tree in my mind in troublesome times, and I’d like to be well-prepared.

  • With respect !!!