Vol. 81, No. 5, May
Disaster Planning is Good Practice
by Sally E. Anderson
Most of us need to do our disaster planning in small steps; such
planning is just too overwhelming to take on all at once. (Of course,
if you are not a procrastinator and can scratch a project from your
"to do" list in one swoop, be my guest.) The rest of us
by thoughtfully considering our everyday procedures, with a view to
what we would need most if the worst were to happen.
Make a concerted effort to keep files organized, up to
date, properly stored (not on the floor), and backed up. (How often you
back up files depends on how much data you can afford to lose.) Back
up laptops, phones, and other electronic devices, too.
While you are in the backup mode, remember that magnetic
storage media degrades over time, so retire your tapes or disks before
that occurs. Also, be sure backups are stored off site.
Follow your file retention policy. Destroy files per schedule.
Make it a practice never to keep original client documents. Copy or
scan those promptly and return them to your client. This is just one
less thing to worry about.
Keep your servers secured and safe, too: in a windowless room,
away from water pipes, radiators and other hazards, and off the floor.
Ditto for your office safe.
Sally E. Anderson, Marquette 1979, is vice president - claims at
Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual Insurance Co., Madison.
Know what you have so you can figure out what you will need. To
do this, create a comprehensive current inventory. List firm assets
and update the list whenever assets change. Include computers and
all equipment, software, library contents and subscriptions,
furniture, and personal property. Your list should contain any
that would be helpful in restoring your office or making an
insurance claim: a model number with serial number; purchase price;
and location of purchase; and any agreement that might apply (lease
or warranty). Keep your computer licenses and security up to date.
Decide which of your business documents to scan or copy for back
up and offsite storage. If your office is destroyed, you will need
copies of leases, banking agreements, and insurance policies. (Have you
considered insurance coverage for business interruption, extra
expense, valuable papers, or accounts receivable?) For each of these
records, include a contact person's or agent's name, contact
and, for insurance policies, instructions for filing claims.
Decide which records have the highest priority. These probably
include your calendar, client lists with current addresses and
contact information, billing and accounts payable information, office
or research files, and clerk of courts' numbers for cases in suit.
If these records are not already available on your backups, arrange
to include them. Next, what kinds of files are less vital? Those may
include closed files of all sorts.
A written plan is invaluable, but only if you update it
regularly. Include the vital statistics mentioned above, a list of
you will need (make a "survival box"), and home and cell phone
contact information for your "office - indispensable" parties
emergency contact for each. Include directions on where to meet if a
disaster occurs during office hours and where you will temporarily set
office. Regularly test your plan.
Everyday awareness that a disaster really could happen to you
will help you plan. Being prepared will help you to fulfill your
responsibilities and resume your life should disaster find you.