Thursday, April 16, 2009

Disaster: Are You Prepared? How Will You Recover?

You never know when disaster will strike. Often you are at the whim of Mother Nature and sometimes the disaster may be man-made. Whatever the cause (hurricane, flood, tornado, earthquake, fire, terrorist attack, power outage, ice, wind, etc) it's best to be prepared to so that you, your office and your home are as safe and secure as possible.

Here are a few tips that may help you with disaster planning and recovery:

Have a plan. You may not be on the West Coast, situated by a body of water, live in Tornado Alley or be in the path of hurricanes, but you cannot dismiss the necessity of having a disaster preparedness plan in place. This is not a simple process. It will take a lot of time and effort but it's important to do this is NOW, not when the disaster is upon you because then it will be too late. This plan should be in writing and provided to all employees. It should also be reviewed and updated on a regular basis.

Keep your employee contact information current and establish a communication plan that will work in the event of disaster so that employees will receive information about the status of the office and when they should return to work. Consider the fact that power may be out and phone lines could go down. How will they get this information if that occurs?

Keep lists of vendors and suppliers. This list would include the entities in charge of your banking, your payroll and bookkeeping systems, as well as your computer systems.
If records are destroyed, will you be able to access client information and contact clients? Create and maintain a list of clients and their contact information. Be sure you're able to access important dates and deadlines.

Use off-site secure servers for your computers if possible. It goes without saying that computers should be backed up daily, regardless of the system you use.

Inventory your firm's furniture and equipment. Keep detailed records of the dates of purchase and cost.

Take pictures...both before and after. Use these pictures to document the condition of your firm's premises before the disaster and then to document the damage. This will be crucial for settling insurance claims.

Have the ability to work remotely. Your clients will still have business you must attend to and you will need the means to do that.

Insurance is vital. Not only do the firm's premises, furnishings and equipment need to be adequately insured, but business interruption insurance is also a necessity. Your firm's largest losses could be to its income stream.

Identify your plan's successes and failures. Following a disaster, you must take a look at what worked with your plan and what needs to be fixed before the next disaster strikes.

Your challenge: Arrange a meeting immediately with key staff members at your firm and begin preparing your disaster plan. If you already have a plan in place, review it to be sure it's up to date. The same goes for your home: have a plan, pictures, contact information and adequate supplies. You cannot fool Mother Nature. When she strikes, you can only be ready to deal with the aftermath.

© 2009 Vicki Voisin, Inc. Do you want to use this article in your newsletter, ezine or Web site? You can, so long as you include this entire blurb with it: Vicki Voisin, "The Paralegal Mentor", delivers simple strategies for paralegals and other professionals to create success and satisfaction by setting goals and determining the direction they will take their careers. Vicki spotlights resources, organizational tips, ethics issues, and other areas of continuing education to help paralegals and others reach their full potential. She publishes a bi-weekly ezine titled Strategies for Paralegals Seeking Excellence. More information is available at

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