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A Few More Important Things About Preparing for a Disaster

Law Firm Operations
Group of people discussing their disaster plan
 
While not every employee needs the same level of education, it is critical to continue the disaster education process throughout the year for all employees.
 

Our first discussion about disasters covered types of disasters and some basics needed to properly address a disruption in normal activities, including how to build a robust team. We subsequently outlined how to make use of staging areas, alternative facilities, and working from home in the second article.

EDUCATION

Employees: Educating employees is an ongoing initiative. While not every employee needs the same level of education, it is critical to continue the disaster education process throughout the year for all employees.

Wardens: The level of disaster education for wardens is more intense. Wardens must be better prepared and be willing to actively participate in training. CPR training is recommended. Appropriate training is available and emergency kits are easily affordable.

Wardens should routinely communicate with the employees on their lists. To help them achieve this goal, scheduling break-out group meetings after company-wide meetings is a good idea.

Routine training is critical. This is not “one and you’re done” training. Training for all employees should occur, at the very least, annually. It is recommended that disaster-training presenters be brought in from outside the company since people tend to pay more attention to outside presenters. Wardens should schedule their group meetings prior to or after these training sessions.

Training should include how to use Zoom or Go To Meeting applications to accommodate people who may need to use FaceTime on their cell phones. (Most office phones, today, can transfer incoming calls to cell phones.)

It may be prudent to maintain a staggered schedule requiring departments or groups of employees to work remotely once a month or quarter; this will keep the workforce familiarized with the use of various disaster-related technologies.

 
Hold a meeting after a disaster to discuss what occurred. What could have been done better? What worked well?
 

COMMUNICATIONS

Communication is critical during a disaster. Contacting each client and business partner via phone or email may not be prudent depending on the situation so here are some other options:

Websites: Websites are now widely used to research a company. It may make sense to post press releases on the company’s homepage. It is important to keep all information on the website current, so removing outdated press releases is critical.

Sample Press Release: (Date of press release) COMPANY NAME (specify offices if relevant) has sustained damage from (an explosion, a fire, a flood, etc.). No employees were injured. The source of the (explosion, fire, flood, etc.) is under investigation.

For security reasons, we have been asked not to make further comment at this time.

Following a standard procedure, put in place some time ago, key employees have been temporarily moved to (address and telephone/fax numbers) and business will commence as usual (time and date). While we will endeavor to continue normal service, we ask our clients to bear with any minor delays in responding. Our aim is to run a seamless operation from our temporary post.

Further information will be announced as soon as possible.

Social Media: LinkedIn is being used more and more. The company probably has a page on this social media platform. It makes sense to update the company’s page with a brief reference; remember to update it and remove it as necessary.

Direct Communication to Clients: The size of an organization should determine how best to communicate with each client and when.

Provide an active client list to various teams. Each team should contact assigned clients via telephone.

The team should provide active clients with an immediate update and progress report to assure them that the company is continuing to address their business.

Prepare an email that can be sent to inactive clients to assure them that the company’s services remain available to them. Take this opportunity to let inactive clients know that they should not hesitate to reach out for new business or other resources that the company may provide.

If a disaster continues for an extended period, it is best to include relevant narrative on all emails in the signature area. Most companies include a confidentiality notice in signature lines. It would be prudent to add narrative stating that employees are working remotely or that the company is closed and to indicate how best to communicate.

Potential Lawsuits: Document, document and document. Keep all correspondence. Confirm a conversation with an email. Expect employees, clients, and business partners to litigate. Check with workers compensation, employment practice, professional liability, and commercial insurance brokers to ensure that the company is properly covered in case of an emergency or disaster and that there are no exclusions.

Post Disaster: Hold a meeting after a disaster to discuss what occurred. What could have been done better? What worked well? It may be a good time to review the company’s assets and supplies. What needs to be upgraded? In the coming weeks, we will address specifically what to review after a disaster.

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