In winter months, we expect an occasional snowstorm to cause issues for us. Just like we plan for hurricanes in summer and fall.
But what about those storms that pop up when you least expect them?
The voracity of the thunderstorms that tore through North Carolina at the beginning of February surprised many of us. Tornados, damaging winds, torrential rains, and power outages commanded headlines across the stated.
How Do You Plan for the Unexpected?
The first step in any disaster plan is to determine your vulnerabilities. Is the building in danger of flooding? Do you have a clear evacuation plan in case of fire? Do employees know what to do during a tornado?
In addition to the basic office security, you will need to identify possible issues that could cause a firm disaster or make your situation worse. Could the sprinkler system activating destroy some of your files? Your office equipment (computers, servers, etc.)?
Once you have determined what could potentially be a problem, and the types of disasters you are likely to face, you are ready to create your disaster plan.
Develop A Detailed Disaster Plan
Your disaster plan should include steps for preparing for a forewarned disaster, handling a disaster in progress, dealing with the aftermath, and rebuilding procedures.
Your top priority during a disaster is making sure everyone is safe and secure. Assign employees responsibility for escorting guests to safety. If you have employees who need special assistance, make sure someone who is physically capable has the responsibility of notifying the responding emergency personnel. Designate a specific meeting spot so that you can account for everyone after evacuating.
You also need to protect your physical assets. Make sure all of your insurance policy information is accessible in the event it is needed. Have a list of your assets, along with vendor contact information and serial numbers, should damage occur to your building. Don’t forget to look in drawers as well. Video or photos can help capture items you may overlook.
Perhaps the most valuable assets, though, are your client files. Are your cabinets fire proof and water proof? Do you have a backup to reproduce files if necessary? Original documents that cannot be reproduced may need to be stored offsite in a bank safety deposit box for optimal security.
Be sure to update your plan to reflect personnel and equipment changes. An annual review is a great way to make sure everything is updated properly.
Now You Have a Plan, What Do You Do with It?
A disaster plan is useless if you can’t access it during a crisis.
To avoid unnecessary panic and confusion, make sure those responsible for managing the crisis can access your disaster plan. This means having copies stored in multiple locations. Store a copy in your safety deposit box, along with your inventory documentation. Have a copy at home so that you know what to do should a disaster strike when you aren’t at the office. If you have cloud storage, store a copy there as well. Make sure you always have a paper copy accessible, though, because a power outage could make the internet unavailable for an extended period of time.
Is There Something You May Have Forgotten?
No matter how much we try to anticipate everything that can go wrong, we often miss some things. I have included a list of a few things that can be major upheavals in an office, even if we don’t necessarily think of them as disasters.
Perhaps a key employee suddenly leaves or has an accident. How do you replace their contributions to the firm? Be sure you have policies and procedures in writing so someone else can step in and do the work.
Any situation that could cause issues for your firm should be taken into consideration and addressed.
Computer Failure or Data Breach
Loss of a Key Employee
Loss of an Attorney
Additional Disaster Planning Resources
Lawyers Mutual hopes your firm never faces a disaster, but we are here if you need us. Here are some additional resources to help you prepare in the event of a crisis:
Samantha Cruff is the Marketing Communications Coordinator at Lawyers Mutual. Contact Samantha for information regarding our available risk management publications at 800.662.8843 or email@example.com.