For crisis management documentation, should the Master Event Log (MEL) be separate from the Incident Action Plan (IAP), and why?

Maintaining clear, organized documentation in crisis management is crucial for effective response and recovery. The Master Event Log and the Incident Action Plan serve distinct, albeit complementary, roles in crisis management. It is often recommended to keep them separate for several reasons:

Purpose and Content

The Master Event Log chronologically records events, decisions, actions, and communications during a crisis. Its primary purpose is to provide a detailed account of the response activities, including who did what and when.

On the other hand, the Incident Action Plan outlines the strategic objectives, resources, responsibilities, and procedures to manage the crisis for a specific operational period. It is forward-looking and focuses on what needs to be done to address the situation.

Audience and Accessibility

Both documents may have different audiences. The crisis management team often uses the master event log for review and debriefing to improve future responses and for legal or compliance reasons. It must be accurate and comprehensive.

The IAP is shared with the response’s operational teams and external partners. It needs to be concise, clear, and actionable.

Dynamics of Use

The MEL is a dynamic document updated in real time as the crisis unfolds. Its primary function is record-keeping.

The IAP is updated regularly but at predefined intervals (e.g., daily or for each operational period). Its purpose is planning and coordination.

Clarity and Focus

Keeping these documents separate helps maintain clarity and focus. The IAP remains streamlined and actionable without being bogged down by the detailed record-keeping found in the event log.

This separation helps team members quickly find the necessary information without sifting through unrelated details.

Related: CC Series Short: The Incident Action Plan

Efficiency in Crisis Management

In high-pressure situations, efficiency and ease of access to information are critical. Having a separate action plan and event log ensures that operational guidance and historical records are organized and can be accessed quickly by those needing them.

From a legal perspective, the master event log can be critical in demonstrating due diligence and decision-making processes in response to the crisis. Separating it from the action plan ensures it remains an unbiased and factual account of events.


In summary, both the Master Event Log and the Incident Action Plan are:

  • Essential components of crisis management documentation.
  • Keeping them separate ensures that each fulfills its purpose more effectively.
  • Enhancing the overall response to and recovery from the crisis.

This approach facilitates operational efficiency and supports post-crisis review and analysis, legal compliance, and continuous improvement in crisis management practices.

Rob Burton
Rob Burton

Rob is a Principal at PreparedEx where he manages a team of crisis preparedness professionals and has over 20 years of experience preparing for and responding to crises. Part of his leadership role includes assisting PreparedEx clients in designing, implementing and evaluating crisis, emergency, security and business continuity management programs. During his career Rob has worked for the US State Department’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program, as a crisis management consultant in Pakistan and Afghanistan where he negotiated with the UN and Pashtun tribal warlords and he served with the United Kingdom Special Forces where he operated internationally under hazardous covert and confidential conditions. Rob was also part of a disciplined and prestigious unit The Grenadier Guards where he served Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the Royal Palaces in London. Rob was a highly trained and experienced infantryman serving in Desert Storm and commanded covert operational teams and was a sniper. Rob has keynoted disaster recovery conferences and participated in live debates on FOX News regarding complex security requirements and terrorism. Rob has a Queen’s Commendation for Bravery.