Are You Ready for the “Big One”?

As Hurricane Sandy barrels down on the east coast and BC is still gently trembling from last week’s earthquake, we can’t help but advise you to think about what would happen if a disaster were to take place in your city, to take a look at what plans you currently have in place to cope, and to make changes if needed.

Busy law firms  seldom think about the possibility of an office fire, but the effects of a fire could devastate your law practice.  The fire doesn’t even have to start in your office suite; down the hall or one floor away, the smoke and water damage could paralyze your practice and harm your clients’ interests if papers and evidence are damaged or destroyed.  The chance of a fire may seem remote, but the resulting consequences could be catastrophic.  Take a few moments to consider your precautions in case of a fire (or other disaster such as a tornado or major snow storm) and implement some simple loss prevention measures.  Review the fire prevention and minimization systems in your office.  What precautions do you have including smoke detectors, fire alarms, sprinkler systems?  Could these be upgraded at reasonable cost?

It doesn’t even have to be a fire.  We know of one office whose server and other IT components were stored in a  room that was directly below the toilets of the floor above.  Yes, you guess it – a toilet backed up and the water came down onto the equipment.  Ooops…

The information stored on your office computers should be periodically backed up, with a copy of the backup stored at an off-site location.  Your backup should not only encompass client information, but firm financial information.  A backup of your most recent billing cycle will keep your cash flowing and save innumerable hours of lost time and aggravation. (Remember to periodically restore a sample file from the backup system to make sure that the system is really working.)

Important original client documents and case evidence should also be protected from fire.  Most attorneys do not have the space or resources to house important documents or evidence in fireproof file cabinets, however, there are some things that may be worth the additional investment.  A “one-of-a-kind” piece of evidence in your possession should be kept in a fireproof safe or a bank safe deposit box, as should evidentiary photos or x-rays.

Keep an up to date copy of your client list, including names, addresses and telephone numbers, in a secure and confidential place out of your office; be sure to update it several times per year. If there is a fire and you cannot get into the office, at least you have a way to contact your clients to let them know the situation.

Finally, also keep a list of your employees, including alternative contact information such as cell phone numbers and parents or children’s phone numbers, so that you can quickly contact your staff and immediately implement your emergency recovery plan in the unlikely event that your office is damaged or destroyed.

If you practice in a smaller office, consider investing in a hardened, fireproof, waterproof networked hard drive to back up your data such as the ioSafe Solo Pro.

A little time spend planning today can save you a world of agony later on if the worst should really happen.

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