January 2013 Bar Bulletin
By Rita Dermody
Superstorm Sandy puts disaster plans front and center. The Law Library adopted a disaster plan after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Superstorm Sandy reminds us that a disaster plan is a living document and requires periodic review. We are committed to preserving the library's materials and have developed plans so that we can swiftly make our libraries available to the public as soon as possible after a catastrophic event.
The Law Library's plan walks the staff through the procedures if an event occurs. This can be anything from a flood or earthquake to bomb threats or threatening telephone calls. The second half of the plan helps us assess the damage and guides our recovery of damaged materials. Recovery of documents and books is just one important part of the plan.
The American Bar Association has written an excellent guide to creating a disaster plan. You can find it in Volume 4 of The Essential Formbook: Comprehensive Management Tools for Lawyers. One of the recommended expercises is an assessment of the potential for a disaster in your location. It can be a tornado, an earthquake or proximity to industrial parks that produce or use toxic chemicals. The Law Library added to the list escaping inmate, tsunami and lahar. (How many people beyond the Pacific Northwest know what a lahar is?)
Another important consideration is the resumption of business. The ABA publication also includes plans for preservation of information you need for resumption of business. If you cannot get back into your office, would you have the necessary information or means to pay your staff?
Do you have an employee phone list that includes their home phone numbers or alternate contact information, such as a parent or sibling? How are you going to keep in contact with your clients? The ABA also provides a good checklist to help you gather your thoughts when asked to speak to the media.
Consideration of the effect of a disaster on your practice is also critical. The Washington State Bar Association sponsored a continuing legal education seminar on this topic. The meeting materials, "Are You Prepared? Lawyers' Roles in Preparing and Responding to Disasters," are available in our library. Also available is Children, Law, and Disasters: What We Have Learned from Katrina and the Hurricanes of 2005, published by the ABA Center on Children and the Law.
It's never too soon to plan for a potential disaster.
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