Are You Ready? Preparing for a Disaster

No matter where you work or live disasters can strike at any time—with or without notice. If one does, knowing what to do and how to immediately respond can help keep everyone safe, protect your assets, and minimize disruptions. But to get to that point requires some disaster preparedness and response planning. Following are some checklists with several ideas for getting started:

Disaster Preparedness and Response Planning Checklist (For Law Firm Owners and Partners)

  • Set up a disaster planning and response team. Then create a list with everyone’s name, contact information, and responsibilities on it.
  • Conduct a formal business impact analysis and risk assessment. Determine what type of risks are most likely impact your law firm, how they might affect your company, your most critical business functions, etc. Once you’re done, arrange the list by priority as well as those most likely to make your law firm inoperable or lose the most money and clients.
  • Create a written disaster recovery plan. This plan should include information such as: 1) What type of information your law firm would immediately need if your office was destroyed, and instructions on how to recover any important firm or client data; 2) An office evacuation plan, including how and where employees should meet in the event of or after an emergency, any staff members who may need special assistance, etc.; 3) Information on how your law firm will respond based on different levels of disruption, such as a minor emergency, a major emergency, or a catastrophe; 4) A list of names and contact information for your employees, vendors, landlord, bank account, insurance policy numbers, accounting and payroll service providers, etc., in both electronic and printed formats; 5) Contact information for important resources, such as the local police, fire department, poison control, electric company, etc.; 6) A list of alternative locations where your law firm’s employees can work if they’re no longer able to work at your office. (Also, be sure to include info in the plan about any service agreements that may be affected by a relocation); 7) How your firm will protect any on-site hardware and servers, if applicable. (Thankfully, if your law firm is already storing all your data and applications in the AirDesk cloud, your data and applications are already protected and can be easily accessed in the cloud so you shouldn’t have to worry about this); 8) Guidelines on how to relocate everything to an alternative work site; 9) Information on any essential functions and/or processes your law firm may need to continue working, as well as how they’re inter-related.
  • Share your plan with everyone in your law firm to make sure they’re aware of it.
  • Practice implementing your plan with your team, including accessing all your critical client and law firm data, files, and applications remotely.
  • Prepare and keep a portable disaster/emergency supply kit and also an office supply kit at your firm.

Disaster Preparedness and Response Planning Checklist (For a Law Firm’s Attorneys and Staff)

Whenever a disaster strikes, no matter how widespread or destructive it is, a law firm’s attorneys and staff still have legal and ethical obligations to fulfill to clients. This includes safeguarding their clients’ property and preventing it from being lost, damaged, or destroyed, as well as protecting their clients’ interests. Here are seven ideas for preparing:
  • Take a disaster or emergency preparedness class.
  • Know your role in assisting your law firm and clients in responding to and recovering from a disaster. If your law firm has a written plan, review the plan and make sure you’re aware of what the plan is, and what your role in recovery will be. Keep both an electronic and printed copy of your responsibilities with you so you can immediately access this information at any time, if needed.
  • Create an individual plan for yourself. Consider how you’ll manage your own clients and files in the event of a disaster. Also, think about how you’ll personally deal with any practical and logistical challenges you may face, such as any power or communication outages, or potential interruptions in access to your clients’ data.
  • Regularly back up your clients’ files. If you’re using AirDesk Legal, every night AirDesk automatically backs up all the files you store and manage in the cloud. However, if you’re storing any files locally on a desktop computer or mobile device, either move them to the cloud or make sure you’re backing those files and documents up regularly so you always have up-to-date copies.
  • Create your own emergency kit and office supply kit to keep in your office and car. That way you’ll not only have the food, water, and items you’ll need to survive a disaster, but also have the office supplies you’ll need to continue working no matter where you are.
  • Make electronic copies of important documents and save them to the cloud so you have a backup copy.
  • Stay informed and evacuate early. If you hear of any potential disasters in your area, sign up to receive local alerts and warnings to stay informed about what’s happening. More importantly, if a disaster is weather related and you know far enough in advance, leave the area early to avoid being trapped in the area. Also, plan ahead for what you’ll do and where you’ll go if you can’t evacuate by car or other forms of transportation and have to get out by foot.