Sunday, July 05, 2009

DIY: incidents file

Every now and then, I'm forced to deal with an alligator, i.e. something that could bite me later on. Examples include:
  • damage to church property,
  • personal injuries on church property,
  • the discipline of a church member,
  • and pretty much anything else in which somebody could ask me later, "What did you know and when did you know it?"
That's why I try to write down the details of each "alligator" just as soon as I can, then put it in my Incidents File. Any subsequent developments (i.e. follow-up visits, phone calls from the insurance company, or letters from the Conference President), are then added to the file.

Yes, this takes time -- though not as much as it would for me to try and remember three months later just exactly what happened. (It's also been interesting to discover how much my memory of an event can change over time.)

But if you're going to start an Incidents File, then you absolutely, positively, need to to make sure that you:
  • Keep it in a safe place -- preferably under lock and key. You don't want the janitor reading the details of your meeting with a church member who is suspected of theft.
  • Avoid indefinite pronouns; spell out the details of who, what, when, where, how, and why. Nothing's worse than trying to remember just exactly who "he" was that you called about "it." And always include the date and time when you wrote this report.
  • Write as though your notes will be evidence in court. They might be -- and for what it's worth, I'm told that juries take a dim view of sloppy handwriting, so write neatly!

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