State Bar provides resources for Midland lawyers affected by flooding

As the Midland area deals with the impact of two dams failing and mass evacuations, the State Bar of Michigan is compiling resources to be of use to Central Michigan attorneys during this difficult time.

If attorneys need more help, they can call the SBM Practice Management Resource Center Helpline at 800-341-9715 or email pmrchelpline@michbar.org.

Here is a checklist of things attorneys might find helpful to think about following a flood:

1. Within the first 24 hours following a disaster, or when safe, an initial damage assessment should be made. This is a cursory review of damage caused by an emergency or disaster to get a quick financial estimate of damage to report to your insurance company, and if a community-wide disaster, to your local government emergency coordinator. Your damage assessment checklist should include such items as:

—Facility structural damage

—Damage to library and supplies, including records

—Damage to office equipment, computers, vehicles

—Damage to property

—Personal injuries

—Cost to recover (library, records, and supplies)

—Cost to recover (equipment, computers)5

—Cost to recover (repairs and maintenance)

—Cost to recover (staff and outside labor)

—Loss of revenue estimate based on duration of work disruption

2. Recovering water-damaged documents successfully requires drying the documents as quickly as possible. Restoration experts caution that in any weather, mold will appear within 48 hours in unventilated areas.

—Use your phone to photograph or scan water-damaged documents.

—Check with your insurance carrier before you destroy any records to determine whether your carrier has a special provision for the salvage of records.

—If you can freeze and store important documents at a temperature of minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit, you can give yourself some time for finalizing arrangements for proper drying and restoration by an authority in restoration. Freezing the documents stops further damage from the diffusion of water but does not kill mold spores.

—Try to separate documents by wax paper or freezer paper but handle the documents as little as possible to avoid further damage.

—If drying documents yourself, remove all paper clips and staples to prevent rust before ironing individual sheets of loose paper with low heat from an iron or hair dryer.

—Stack documents between sheets of absorbent paper, such as pages of a newspaper. Change the paper every two to four hours as needed.

—Air circulation, cool temperatures, and dehumidification are important. Leave air conditioning running 24-hours a day and bring in dehumidifiers and fans as needed.

—Photocopy wet papers inside Mylar document sheet protectors and discard the damaged original if possible.

3. Contact the proper authorities and emergency resources and support such as:

—Building management

—Fire department

—Police department

—Health Department

—Local utility companies: gas, electric, water, phone

—Insurance agent

4. Videotape or photograph all damage. Include a yardstick or ruler in the image as a frame of reference.

5. After the initial 24 hours following a disaster, you'll need to look at recovery and salvage processes that will need to be taken. This is when you will prepare a comprehensive damage assessment. Coordinate with your insurance claims adjuster. Do not overlook tracking expenses incurred during the recovery and response process such as:

—Travel

—Phone bill

—Equipment rentals

—Temporary facilities

—Temporary staffing

—Outside consultants

—Notification of existing clients, court, other lawyers, and vendors

—Security measures and risk management to prevent additional damage

6. During the response phase, be prepared to implement any necessary contingency arrangements.

—Identify hot client matters, especially where postponements are needed. If necessary, review court dockets.

—If necessary, recreate an active client list from calendars, phone call logs, and collective staff memory.

—Until you can adequately screen for conflicts, resist taking on new clients.

—Make appointments for clients whose legal documents must be recreated.

—Establish an emergency communication system for communicating with the courts, other lawyers, staff, clients, and vendors.

—Designate an information liaison outside the disaster zone.

—Post signage at your office with directions about how best to reach you.

—Locate an alternate storage space for records.

—Provide staff with a script to inform and reassure callers and clients.

—Contact vendors to lease equipment or replace damaged items:

• Computers

• Copiers/Scanners/Fax Machines

• File storage

• Network servers

• Office furniture

• Printers

7. To ensure the financial health of your firm, give priority to collecting outstanding accounts receivable.

8. Get immediate professional assistance to help in the recovery and repair of your computer system. Your top priority is the data, not the equipment itself. A reputable repair shop can clean and test the system. More likely than not, the data stored on the drive can be recovered.

9. Contact your insurance agent, who can refer you to a professional service for help with repairing, sterilizing, and drying the areas where records are to be stored—such as shelving, cabinets, and desks. Carpet, carpet padding, or liners must be dried and treated for mold and mildew or replaced. Investigate tile or other flooring for similar damage. Continue inspecting damaged areas for mold, mildew, and other damage for at least one year.

10. Keep an inventory of anything that must be destroyed or removed from the premises for drying by a commercial service. For client documents, track:

—Client/matter name

—Client/matter number

—Items destroyed

—Inclusive dates

—Reason destroyed

11. Rebuild your law library. Identify the items to be replaced as soon as possible. Inquire whether prior vendors will provide a hardship discount for replacing books.

12. Contact the State Bar of Michigan Practice Management Resource Center  at 800-341-9715 for assistance.
 

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