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October 2001
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Disaster Checklist

By Sheryn Bruehl

Here's a list to guide you as you gather and prepare emergency information. Of course, no generic form can take into account all of the unique aspects of your practice, property, or personnel, and you should carefully consider (and discuss with your staff) any additions which might be helpful to your office in the event of an emergency.

I. SAFETY

MEDICAL EMERGENCIES

Employee information
Emergency contacts; hospital/physician preferences, special medical information.

First aid/C.P.R.

Emergency numbers posted/available
(Police/fire/rescue/other).

Written instructions for emergencies
Bomb threats, hostage situations, evacuation.

Outside office address clearly visible to rescue personnel

FIRE/GAS LEAK

Fire extinguisher(s), smoke detectors

Evacuation plan
Alternate routes, meeting place, "fire chief," protecting equipment/property/disaster file.

When/how to contact
Fire department, other threatened parties, family members of employees.

SEVERE WEATHER

During the workday
Radio/TV available or other weather warning system in place; designated storm shelter or safe place, office closing/evacuation plan. Who decides, and how? Who should be notified, and how? What if employees can't leave? Protecting equipment/property power failure (often includes phones).

Off-hours/weekends
First Responder? Emergency contact priority. How to contact you in an emergency. Office closing policy? Who decides? When? How are employees notified? How are clients/others notified?

Power or phone failure
Back-up phone procedure, alternate phone if system failure. Name and phone numbers of phone technicians, landlord/maintenance/repair services.

II. INSURANCE

PROPERTY INSURANCE CARRIER

Agent's name, address, phone

Policy number and reporting procedure. Coverage. General limits? Replacement value or depreciated? (Is that replacement of a 486 computer that cost $3,000 with a $3,000 computer or with a comparable machine, now worth $200?) How paid? Up front or upon proof of replacement?

Deductibles. Special deductibles (type of loss, property). Computers and other electronics (copier, fax, etc.) Equipment failure. Virus/sabotage, software, data recovery, equipment used at home, in vehicle, or while traveling.

Client or employee property. Loss or destruction of cash/checks on premises. Document reconstruction costs. Employee dishonesty

Personal injuries: To clients, others, inside, outside?

EMPLOYEE INSURANCE

Workers' compensation insurance carrier Policy number. Injuries/claims should be reported to? Who is covered: Permanent employees? Occasional employees (maintenance, temp, etc.)? Owners/partners/yourself? What is your policy for employee claim reporting? What is your policy for injury prevention?

Health/disability/life insurance
Policy number. Plan type. What local hospitals are covered?

PERSONAL INSURANCE

Health/disability/life insurance
Policy number: Plan type. Primary physician. Benefits. Beneficiary.

III. AFTER THE DISASTER

RECORDS

You must have ready access to these:

Docket

Address/contact data

Client/matter list
With county/case number/opposing counsel.

Insurance and account information

HOW/WHERE WILL YOU SET UP?

Buddy system
Prior agreement. Compatible equipment.

Other temporary quarters
Home/hotel. Temp office space.

Phone setup
Forwarding. Emergency lines.

Technical support
Phones. Computers.

NOTIFYING CLIENTS/OTHERS
Mail, telephone, e-mail, listservs/bulletin boards, bar journal.

RESTORE/RECOVER DOCUMENTS AND DATA?
Value of document imaging. Insurance coverage considerations. Value of file/matter list (case/county/opposing counsel)

IV. LOSS OF PARTNER/KEY STAFF

Security
Shut down access to bank accounts. Change locks. Change alarm codes and notify police, business I.D. number service, and alarm service of new contacts. Change computer and voicemail passwords.

Ethics
Review ethical requirements if leaving party is an attorney. Contact clients if appropriate.

Trust accounting
Personally open and review bank statements each month. Have employee reconcile accounts. Personally review reconciliation and examine checks and deposit slips. Ask questions. Carefully consider professional and ethical considerations regarding access to your trust account(s).

EMERGENCY FILE DOCUMENTS:

* Emergency contact information for all personnel (including yourself).

* Property insurance policy (declarations sheets and policy provisions, exclusions and riders).

* Life/disability/health policies.

* Account numbers and contact phones for bank accounts, credit cards.

* Tax I.D. numbers.

* Electronic, computer equipment and software serial numbers, dates of purchase and prices.

* Warranty information and service contracts.

* Videotape of building contents (and written inventory if available).

* Written instructions for disposition of files/Buddy lawyer agreement.

* Will (or instructions for locating it and other important documents).

Special thanks to Jim Calloway, director of management assistance program, Oklahoma Bar Association, for his tips on trust accounting and invaluable assistance on law office management issues.

Attorney Sheryn Bruehl recently joined the staff of American Lawyer Media's LegalTech division. She is based in Milwaukee.

Inside
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Legaltech London
Publisher's Report



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