Scribe training – more than taking notes

By Monique Rollin

In emergency management we know that critical incidents and disasters are low-frequency, high- risk, high-demand situations where impactful decisions need to be made with little time and the stakes are high. Incident Commanders, Emergency Managers and leaders in these situations have to rely on verifiable information to make decisions. The best way to capture, record and retain information during major incidents is by using scribes.

As a profession, scribes have been around for as long as there has been written language. In ancient times, scribes were educated men whose mission it was to chronicle and preserve their civilizations’ history.  Historically, scribes copied books, recorded the orders of royalty and kept the judicial records for nobility.

The scribe assigned to command staff in an Emergency Operations Centre or Command Post plays an integral role in emergency management and directly contributes to effective emergency management.  The scribe does more than take notes for the Command Section or Incident Commander. The purpose of the scribe is to maintain a verifiable record of key events and actions during an incident including the documentation of events, decisions, incoming and outgoing information and tracking actions that need to be addressed. These notes capture the actions, decisions, and directions of the Commander and importantly, the circumstances and information that lead the Commander to make those decisions.  Having a trained scribe allows the Commander to focus on the important facts and decision making rather than record keeping and note taking. Incident Command notes are a critical record of the event and are often used as incident records in after action reports, reviews and legal proceedings.

The documentation kept by the EOC scribe does more than provide a timeline of events. They are a vital support to the Commander to support situational awareness for assigned tasks, information flow and resource tracking.  The relationship between a good scribe and their assigned commander can support the whole operation, assist with briefings, debriefs and contribute to sound decision making by providing the Commander a demonstrable record of the incident.

The Ontario Association of Emergency Managers is pleased to offer professional development and ongoing learning opportunities. The new Scribe Training Program for The Emergency Operations Centre has been overwhelmingly well received and has trained over 45 municipal, regional and private sector EOC scribes with additional training planned for Northern Ontario in April 2020.

Having worked in policing and emergency response for over 30 years in Northern Ontario I can attest to the lack of opportunities my colleagues have to access professional development in the North. We are challenged by geography, budgets and access to services.  Having training development come to us in beautiful Northern Ontario in the spring is an immense opportunity to bring emergency management professionals together from all across Ontario.

I am excited to contribute to OAEM’s third training event for EOC Scribes. Please join me as you learn about how to be a competent Scribe in an Incident Command Post, Emergency Operations Center or in the field.  This one day training course will review roles, responsibilities and duties including scribe note taking in the EOC work environment, register for the event in Sudbury at

Interested in hosting a scribe course for your community or organization? Contact Jason Reid, Professional Development Director at