Everyone's motivation for disaster planning may have faded in the four yearssince 9/11, but Katrina and Rita brought it right back. The need for detailed planning, even for small to medium-sized workplaces, seemed very real when images of the bumper to bumper exodus from Houston dominated television screens.
"Large businesses have the resources for disaster planning. It's the small businesses that are living day to day that don't have the time to think about this," says Virginia Bauer, secretary of the New Jersey Commerce, Economic Growth, and Tourism Commission.
Bauer will keynote the disaster preparedness conference "Plan! Prepare! Recover," sponsored by the American Red Cross Central New Jersey, Disaster Preparedness Conference on Wednesday, October 26, at 8:15 a.m. at the New Brunswick Hyatt.
Speakers include Colonel Joseph R. Fuentes, director of the state office of emergency management, and Donald Sebastian of NJIT, and there will be workshops based on business type and geographical region. Cost: $150 including breakfast and lunch. Call 609-951-2107.
"The horrific scenes on the Gulf Coast really bring the issue of disaster preparedness and business continuity planning to the forefront," says Bauer, the widow of a Cantor Fitzgerald executive who died at the World Trade Center. "For the majority of small businesses, the slightest disruption in normal operations means the difference between profit or bankruptcy. Ultimately, that means a loss of jobs and revenues needed to keep our Garden State economy moving."
"We spoke to one woman who owned a travel industry and that business was decimated after 9/11," says Bauer. "She really didn't know where to go for help, which can be emotionally damaging. It might have helped her to know where to go in the government to get resources. We can guide them through so they know they are not alone."
A survey taken last year found that - even after 9/11 - 48 percent of New Jersey's businesses have still not taken steps to increase security or prepare for a future attack, and only eight percent have a comprehensive business continuity plan. According to that survey, from 25 to 40 percent of small businesses do not reopen following a disaster such as the devastation wrought by Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
To give the business community some help on how to prepare, Bauer formed a task force that included attorney Ted Zangari of Sills Cummis Epstein & Gross; Caren Franzini, CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority; Jeff Perlman,
property-casualty insurance agent with the Borden Perlman Agency; Jeffrey A. Horn, of the Somerset County Business Partnership; plus a food store owner, a security specialist, a mayor, a township administrator, and several consultants.
The task force devised a comprehensive but easy-to-follow checklist, "A Blueprint for Emergency Preparedness," covering human resources, physical resources, and business continuity, as well as steps to take after a disaster has occurred.
For instance, the brochure told how to find a business continuity consultant, through the Association of Contingency Planners www.acp-international.com). The brochure is online in PDF format at www.newjerseycommerce.org or available by calling 609-777-0885 or 866-534-7789.
"We have attempted to get this in the hands of all our Small Business Development Centers, financial consultants, accountants, lawyers, and people who deal with small business," says Bauer. "Many of the details we outline will prevent a business from having a serious repercussion."
In an aside, Bauer suggests that helping small businesses with business continuity "could be a very lucrative business for someone."
As for Bauer's own disaster plan, she says her department does indeed have one. "We are on constant alert. Someone in my office would call me to tell me where we were going to set up our phone system."
"New Jersey does especially care about small businesses that need our support and protection," says Bauer. "We are trying to provide every resource in a simple clear fashion so they can prepare or - God forbid - react to any type f
disaster. If they need any assistance from the state, Commerce is a friend and ally."
Putting People First At Mathematica
Patty Fenner is director of facilities at social policy research firm Mathematica. She doubles as emergency preparedness planner at the 500-person Alexander Road-based company, which also has offices in Washington, D.C., right behind the Air and Space museum, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and in Plainsboro.
The company's Washington employees were badly shaken by the 9/11 attacks, the event that gave birth to a company emergency plan. "It was 9/11 that triggered this," says Fenner. "The Red Cross has known (all about disasters) forever, but we all had our eyes opened."
"Mathematica is so concerned about taking care of employees," she says. "After the terrorism thing, we were anxious to make a plan." Katrina only added to that resolve. "We saw that in a hurricane you can't wait for the government," she says. "We should be able to take care of ourselves and each other."
A key element of Mathematica's planning is its involvement in the Red Cross's Business Partnership, a network of companies of all sizes that meet on a regular basis to determine how they could help one another in case of an emergency.
"Small companies can't put the same resources into disaster planning as big companies can, but we can learn from them," she says. At the Red Cross meetings the question "Did you think of that?" is always in the air as participants take part in workshops, or just get together for lunch, and she has found it to be a big help. As aspects of the question are raised multi-nationals with detailed plans - she gives Johnson & Johnson as an example - step up and share their answers.
Another thing Fenner has gotten out of the Red Cross Business Partnership is an awareness of what local resources are available. A company might have an empty warehouse it is willing to loan to a neighbor that has had a fire. A hospital may have an empty wing that could quickly be made ready to receive overflow patients. A limo company might be willing to make its airport shuttles available in an evacuation. All of these resources have always been around, but thanks to the Red Cross initiative, everyone now knows about them.
The Business Partnership used to meet more frequently, and Fenner, for one, would be happy to have more chances to get together with local companies. Meanwhile, she is looking forward to the big conference on Wednesday, October 26, in part, she says, because she enjoys seeing what vendors will bring to the conference. The attacks of 9/11 "triggered so many niche businesses," she says. As an example, she talks about a company that will set up waterproof storage trailers in a company's parking lot.
Along with community, big company expertise, and shopping opportunities, the Red Cross Business Partnership provides specific ideas. Fenner believes that good communication is at the heart of good emergency planning, and says that she has picked up several tips as a result of her participation in Red Cross exercises.
One is to make a list of all of the company's important contact numbers and to laminate it. She did this, and now Mathematica's employees carry the cards in their wallets. She has also drawn up an internal map of the company's offices that includes the location of every employee. Housed in a red binder, one copy sits with the receptionist, who is charged with taking it with her in case the building has to be evacuated. Fenner has another copy, and has distributed several more to other key employees. This simple tool would make it easier to firemen or other emergency workers to pinpoint the locations of unaccounted for employees in case of a disaster.
Accounting for every employee is Mathematica's first priority. A little down on the list - but not too far - is paying them. "Our employees are so important to us. We feel strongly that payroll has to go on," says Fenner. An off-site
payroll company and automatic deposit means that the checks will continue to go out, even if an office is no longer accessible. This is important for business continuity, as well as for reasons of basic respect, she points out. "Our
employees would probably keep working even if they were not paid," she says, "but that wouldn't be the case at every company. If you don't pay them, they could go away."
A business continuity plus for Mathematica is that its employees are wired and easily able to work from home. Temporary closure of a building would not be a crippling problem. It is covered, too. "We back-up every night, and send our data off-site," says Fenner. "The Washington office keeps its data here, and we keep our data there."
Getting back to its most precious resource, Fenner points out that EAPs, employee assistance programs, often include post-disaster assistance to workers in their menu of services. "Most people don't know this," she says. "They think that EAPs are just for struggling employees, but they will help with data back-up, and will be a connection point for communicating with employees." But, she adds, only if these arrangements have been made in advance.
This is just one issue that should be thought out well ahead of any disaster. Another involves delegating authority. "In a disaster, every hotel in town will be booked," she gives as an example. "Do you have a senior manager who has the
authority to commit to costs?" If not, you will not be able to act quickly, and could lose any chance at a suite of rooms from which to conduct interim operations.
Talk to vendors and clients ahead of time, too. Establish communications procedures and get your disaster plans in synch. And don't neglect your local emergency personnel. "If they know you, they might come quicker," is Fenner's reasoning.
Finally, she thinks that it is a good idea to somehow train employees to respond to fire alarms and other warnings. Apparently Mathematica's employees are not only uncommonly cherished, but are also uncommonly dedicated. "When the alarms sound," says Fenner, "people just stay at their desks and keep working." She can generally nudge most outside, but it's a struggle. Mathematica Policy Research Inc., 600 Alexander Park, Suite 100, Princeton 08540. Charles E. Metcalf, president. 609-799-3535; fax, 609-799-0005. Www.mathematica-mpr.com
Staying Vigilant with a Nudge from Katrina
As regional manager of environmental health and safety, PGI1, region 3, Gordon McDonough directs emergency preparedness efforts at Siemens Demag Delaval Turbomachinery's operations at 840 Nottingham Way. An employee of the company, which services and repairs turbo machinery, or its predecessors, since 1985, he knows well that "priorities change." Getting ready for a crisis, especially for one with no exact name, and no clearly discernible shape, can take a backseat to more immediate business concerns.
For his company, as for so many, 9/11 was the mother of all wake-up calls. "Real crisis management took off right after 9/11," he says. "The terms changed. Most definitely, 9/11 was extremely critical. There was definitely a ratcheting up, an extreme difference, as far as I could tell."
But that was four years ago. A more recent jolt came from Katrina and Rita. "It was a wake up call," says McDonough. "We had people in Texas and an office in New Orleans." The company sighed with relief when Rita only sideswiped Houston,
and has been able to account for all of its employees in New Orleans. Still, the two extreme weather events have occasioned another look at already thorough emergency preparedness plans.
"We have analog phones and satellite phones," says McDonough, "but do we have enough satellite phones? I don't say yes. This (Katrina) will make us take a look." In that emergency the company's emergency communication plan worked. "Our cell phones did reach," he says, "and some land lines worked, but it did make us think."
Siemens, a diversified German company with a United States headquarters for the power group in Orlando, puts employees first in its emergency planning, says McDonough. Their safety and welfare comes first. There are emergency call trees, and thought has been given to taking care of families in a disaster. "If a family needs assistance, we have the means to do that," he says. "Some employees lost everything in Katrina. The company held fundraisers to help them out."
The next priority in the emergency preparedness plan, after employees are accounted for and given aid, is business continuity. Company manuals spell out the specifics in great detail. One important segment of the planning, says McDonough, is maintaining lines of communication with clients. Because Delaval provides back-up power, "our customers are very interested in our ability to keep going," he says. "In any disruption you want to get to the customers." The company uses software to aggregate client information.
While preparedness efforts for McDonough's operations emanate from the U.S. power group's headquarters in Florida with input from global headquarters in German, where a number of employees work on planning full time, each site has its own plans. In working on his site's plan, McDonough has found the Red Cross's Business Partnership to be a help. "They put emphasis on dealing with local authorities, " he says. "They get speakers that individual companies couldn't afford."
Pleased with his participation in the Red Cross initiative, and mulling over lessons from Katrina, McDonough is hopeful - but vigilant. "I keep my fingers crossed," he says. "You hope you never need the plans, but then you see things like Katrina. It's a wake-up call. It's easy to put things aside in crisis management, but by all means, be prepared."
Siemens Demag Delaval Turbomachinery Inc., 840 Nottingham Way, Box 8788, Trenton 08650-8788. Charles Edwards, vice president, PG-1 service region 3. 609-890-5000; fax, 609-890-5328. Home page: www.pg.siemens.com
Church & Dwight, Preparing for the Worst
Roy Dyer is director of environmental safety at Church & Dwight, the baking soda company with a substantial presence in consumer products ranging from kitty litter to laundry detergents. Just like his colleagues in other industries, he cites 9/11 as the genesis of his company's extensive emergency preparedness planning. After all, he says, "we're right on the Route 1 corridor, between Philadelphia and New York City." That location, he reasons, translates into increased vulnerability to terrorist attacks.
In 2002 Dyer, a 28-year Church & Dwight employee, went shopping for a consulting company to help out with emergency planning. After very careful consideration, he and his management chose Disaster Survival Planning Network, a California-based company with a website homepage that includes a truly spectacular photo of a lightening strike. Lots of companies do disaster planning, Dyer discovered, and he was unwilling to settle.
"We looked for a company that was flexible, and more adaptable to our own culture," he says. He knew that the plan would have to be updated as time went on and looked for a partner with whom the company would be comfortable in a long-term relationship. "We went through our own checklist," he says. "It's like choosing a doctor."
Disaster Survival was "not the least expensive" company out there, but it was affordable, and was a good fit, offering a plan that was "workable, updatable, and affordable."
After the initial plan was drafted, the consulting company created a disaster scenario. "They got all the folks involved, the management team, and we rehearsed the plan," says Dyer. He does not want to discuss specifics, for security reasons, but will say that the plan calls for regular, off-site data back-up, employee call chains, and a layer of redundancy for heat and lighting.
The plan has one overriding principle. "The guideline we had was 'plan big,'" says Dyer. "Plan for the worst possible scenario." Church & Dwight immediately agreed with this philosophy. "We took an attitude to plan for the worst, natural or man-made," he says. "You can always scale down, but it's harder to expand." He believes that this is a lesson that FEMA learned in responding to Katrina.
Church & Dwight Co. Inc. (CHD), 469 North Harrison Street, CN 5297, Princeton 08543-5297. Robert A. Davies III, chairman and CEO. 609-683-5900; fax, 609-497-7177. Home page: www.armhammer.com
Help in Planning
Mercer County has announced the formation of the Mercer County Local Information Network and Communications Systems (LINCS) Office, an initiative that steps up the county's efforts to prevent bioterrorism.
Salary, equipment, and program costs for LINCS are covered by a $468,183 state-sponsored bioterrorism prevention grant, funded under the County Environmental Health Act.
The staff in place thus far consists of an epidemiologist, a bioterrorism nurse, a health educator/risk coordinator, and an information technology specialist, all of whom were hired from the City of Trenton. A practice standards coordinator and a LINCS coordinator will soon join the team, and a public health planner from the New Jersey Department of Health and Human Services has been assigned to work with the group also.
Mercer County Health Officer Hansel Asmar supervises the LINCS team and oversees the CEHA grant that provides its funding. LINCS is now developing a Community Health Alert and Information Network that will connect public health departments with hospitals, laboratories, emergency responders, medical providers, schools, and other community organizations for information sharing and response to public health incidents.
LINCS is an electronic information system that supports interactive reporting, health data analysis, and the dissemination of public health information among the department of health and senior services, the National Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, local health departments, health care providers, and emergency providers. atewide LINCS system also supports the concept of regionalized and coordinated public health assessment, disease and hazardous condition identification, and rapid response and containment of incidents that threaten health.
Laureate Pharma:Staying Above Water
Bob Morgan, senior director of facilities engineering, jokes that he was "acquired" by Laureate Pharma, a contract pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical manufacturer with 70 workers in New Jersey. "I've been in the building for 21 years," he says. His very presence speaks of business continuity. Ownership may change, but he stays on. And it is continuity that he speaks of first when he talks about his company's emergency plan.
The Forrestal Center-based company had long maintained an emergency evacuation plan, but "business continuity is more recent," says Morgan. Some time after 9/11 the company realized that it had a number of processes and procedures that
might have to be suspended in case of a disaster - and that would need to be brought back up as quickly as possible. Its business continuity plan addresses them.
An important element of the plan, which was done entirely in-house, involved putting key documents on a secure remote server, where they could be accessed by key personnel no matter where they landed after a disaster. "We put as much in electronic form as possible," says Morgan. The documents include contracts with clients, subcontracts with vendors, lists of employees' phone numbers, contractors' phone numbers, customer contact information, information about utilities, and insurance declaration sheets - along with insurance brokers' phone numbers. "That's the first call we would make," says Morgan, "to the insurance company."
The company has enough back-up power "to support critical stuff," says Morgan. Refrigeration and alarms would be covered as would power to manufacturing runs that could not be disrupted. "But it's not prudent to keep running all the
manufacturing processes," he says. That would require too much back-up power.
In the case of a disaster, Laureate knows that some employees might have to stay on-site 24/7, and might not be able to get away for meal breaks. Therefore, it is prepared to house at least part of its force. It has set up an area away from operations where they could sleep and has laid in enough non-perishable food and water to last for at least three days. "We turn it over once a year," says Morgan, "and then donate the food." The company has not made provisions to house families, however. "It would be just the employees," he says.
Laureate has gotten to know local police and fire departments and has invited them to look over operations. The company has "put a lot of thought" into getting ready for disasters, and, says Morgan, is quite confident that it is ready.
Were there any lessons learned from Katrina? "Yes," says Morgan, tongue in cheek. "Don't build below sea level."
But wait, isn't the company's second facility in Totowa, and isn't Totowa being featured in newscasts, in the second week of October, as a site of substantial flooding?
Yes, admits Morgan. Is the company being affected? "No," says Morgan. "Well, not really."
But the inland floods of October - many in spots that never flooded before - point out the exhausting fact that an emergency preparedness coordinator has an infinite number of scenarios to worry about. The planning is never, ever done.
Laureate Pharma LLP, 201 College Road East, Princeton 08540. Robert J. Broeze PhD, president. 609-919-3300; fax, 609-452-7211. Home page: www.laureatepharma.com
In early October Governor Codey launched a Community Emergency Response Team training program. Hurricane Katrina's aftermath emphasized the importance of having citizens trained in basic survival and rescue skills, so they can provide assistance to victims and critical support to first responders.
New Jersey has the largest Community Emergency Response Team in the country with more than 6,000 volunteers and 220 teams. The volunteers receive about 20 hours of basic-level training in basic first aid, family disaster preparedness,
disaster fire suppression, medical operations, CERT operations, disaster mental health, basic emergency management, and disaster simulation.
Training is available to everybody, regardless of physical ability. Call 609-538-6060 for more information.
NJM Insurance: Backup Water & Power
For any insurance company, the words "be prepared" have a special resonance. "It is our duty to serve our policy holders at the time of their need," says Patrick Breslin, spokesperson for New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance (NJM) on Sullivan Way in West Trenton. For many emergencies, such as a hurricane, the clients would be in dire straits at the same time as the insurance company workers are having a hard time getting to work.
With that in mind, NJM has tried to foresee every possibility, including one that most companies don't have to face - proximity to the West Trenton rail line that carries both Septa passenger cars and freight trains. "An accident on the train track could render our building unable to be used," says Breslin.
The company can move its business to offices in Hammonton or Parsippany. "We need the ability to do our duties at the same time the policy holders need to get their claims settled that they have been paid for all those years," says Breslin.
"We also have an agreement with an outside vendor, with technology compatible with ours, to be a 'hot site' for some of our employees to work and to continue the routine paper production, printing of policies and such, that are necessary to provide service to our customers," says Breslin.
Founded in 1913, NJM is the state's largest auto insurance company and it has 1,800 workers on Sullivan Way, plus 500 at other sites. In addition to auto, it sells homeowners and workers compensation insurance, plus umbrella and flood
insurance. The company's three-story brick-and-glass building was built in 1966 and was expanded in 1997 to a total of 482,500 feet.
Two of NJM's own generators provide backup electricity, not only for emergencies, but also during really hot summers when the power grid is stressed. They switch on automatically when the power turns off. The building also has a tank for its independent water supply.
NJM sells three lines of insurance plus umbrella insurance and flood insurance. It has two people who focus on business continuity, and they are leading a task force to choose a software consultant program to develop an overarching strategy of business continuity - to analyze needs, develop solutions, and conduct "fire drills."
"The day after the disaster, the phone calls do come in all at one time. We make certain that the entire claims team is in and on the phone." Other selected employees have been trained to handle the first report of a claim.
For backups: Digital records go back more than 20 years, and for at least the last 10 years they have had dual backups every night. "All of our electronic records are backed up on tape and stored in a different part of our building, and a second copy is transported off site. As technology has changed, the methodology of those backups has been changing as well."
Most claim records are on computer, but some actual hard copies of letters from lawyers may exist only on paper, and the company is still trying to decide how to protect its paper files. "A lot of that paper is imaged, but an awful lot of paper is around the building and there is no comprehensive solution to retrieving that under some of the emergency scenarios. The more you look at recovery, the more you see what needs to be protected," says Breslin.
NJM has elaborate communications redundancy, including a unified phone system with two different landlines that comes in from different parts of the campus, and these lines can be answered from the other locations. "We have a whole bunch of cell phones for internal contacts," say Breslin, "and a centralized listing of key personnel to call in emergencies. We maintain that on a manual list and are looking at software to maintain in it in computerized fashion to update it every single day."
In less severe emergencies, such as snowstorms, NJM routinely puts a message on the customer service phone that makes the announcement to both customers and employees that the building is closed. "We can make a similar announcement from
our website, and I can post it from my home," says Breslin. "Each department has a telephone tree, but the website is superior to the phone tree when we know employees are actively looking for answers."
Serious floods can block roads to the building so that employees have to detour, by permission, through the Katzenbach School for the Deaf. For the most recent flood the company sent its van to the War Memorial, where homeowners had been instructed to go for government assistance. "We answered questions even from those who were not our policy holders. We bought throw-away film cameras and gave them to anybody who wanted them, as a service."
New Jersey Manufacturers' Insurance, 301 Sullivan Way, West Trenton 08628. Anthony G. Dickson, president. 609-883-1300; fax, 609-883-0653. Home page: www.njm.com
Payroll Firm: Establish Second Site
Alex Bothwell runs a payroll company in Bordentown, formerly called Delaware Valley Payroll, and sometimes known as Prime Point. Over 50 percent of the check processing is accomplished by his clients on the Internet. When it is time to send out the payroll, a dvPayroll worker pushes the button. Some paper checks are printed but many are electronic transfers.
Bothwell's business plan, to franchise his company nationally, fed right into his disaster plan. He wanted to practice operating a satellite office, so he established a sales office in Turnersville just 35 miles away from his headquarters.
The second office works perfectly as a back-up location. One primary and two secondary Internet pipes go to each office, so if one goes down there is a backup. He has redundant servers backed up on a virtual private network with a two-hour difference between the two locations."
The second office has a limited amount of check stock, in case the main office is wiped out. "I have reserves, and I know how long it will take to get them," says Bothwell.
dvPayroll & HR, 163 Route 130, Building 1, Suite C, Bordentown 08505. Alex Bothwell, CEO. 609-298-7373; fax, 609-298-6742. Home page: www.dvpayroll.com
Lenox: Expanding Its Vision of Disasters
Disasters like Katrina can lull IT experts into thinking they need to worry only about physical damage to the infrastructure, says Bob Palmer, vice president of IT at Lenox Inc., a manufacturer of china, crystal and flatware with 225 employees in administrative offices on Lenox Drive. Palmer calls for an "expanded perspective of what constitutes a disaster."
Disaster planning used to mean hiring a vendor to provide physical facilities and equipment in case of an emergency, Palmer says. But if a company's IT infrastructure is attacked by hackers, the company would have to deal with security firms, Internet service providers, and law enforcement agencies, among others, he said. Making planning more difficult is that electronic aggression is always changing and evolving. So, says Palmer, "disaster recovery planning needs to become broader and more dynamic in nature."
Palmer grew up in Woodbridge, where his father was a chemical operator in a north Jersey chemical plant and his mother was an office worker. After graduating from Rowan University, Class of 1987, and getting a master's degree from Rider, he worked for Johnson & Johnson and has been at Lenox for 10 years.
Assuming the worst case possible, such as a major outage at the company's data center in Pennsylvania, he worked with a consultant on business interruption:
To determine losses for various parts of the business
To prioritize functions needed to be online at any particular time
To estimate the impact for various time scenarios in terms of dollars or customers.
"We interviewed the business leaders within the company and held meetings over the course of a few months. Then we looked at it across the enterprise and decided what were the critical functions and what the impact would be per day if distribution were down for two days or four days. Then we decided what we needed to bring back up and in what time and in what order."
Protecting employees is an important part of the planning. If the customer service department were impacted, plans would need to be made for 65 customer service people.
Archival storage must also be planned. Not every piece of paper in Lenox's office has been scanned. Some papers are stored at a secure, remote facility.
Question your disaster recovery consultant closely about its capacity and the geographical spread of its other clients, Palmer advises. His own disaster recovery consultant had to postpone a disaster drill because it was busy helping bail out his other clients from Katrina.
Lenox has been bought by Kentucky-based Department 56, and Palmer expects to have to merge his carefully crafted disaster recovery plan with the parent company's. "You don't need two disaster recovery vendors."
Lenox Inc., Lenox Products Group (BFB), 100 Lenox Drive, Lawrenceville 08648-2394. Jay Hanauer, CEO. 609-896-2800; fax, 609-895-0139. Home page: www.lenox.com
Law Firm: Managing, The Paper Trail
Joseph Asir, an immigration attorney who owns Princeton Law Group, manages his paper trail carefully: "We do not keep files onsite for more than a month for space reasons, but it also works well for security reasons." If a file is closed, he holds it for 30 days and sends it to commercial self-storage, where it stays for three years. Then it is transferred to the warehouse of a company that specializes in long-term storage, where it stays for seven years.
"There is a possibility that someone will come back to us long after petition has been approved," Asir says. For instance, some of his clients lost their green cards as a result of Hurricane Katrina, and they needed to know how to get duplicates.
He also has two locations, both on Route 206. One is an office and the other a mailing address. "We also have web-based records of client E-mails and their telephone numbers. It was not a very deliberate decision, but after 9/11, we felt the need."
Princeton Law Group LLC, 2683 Main Street (Route 206), Suite 1, Lawrenceville 08648. Joseph Asir Esq., managing partner. 609-620-0949; fax, 609-620-0955. Home page: www.princetonimmigrationgroup.com
Carchman, Sochor, et al: Fireproof Vault
Richard Ragsdale remembers a lawyer's horror story, how a law firm in Newark had a fire. "Talking to the lawyers, they said it was unbelievably difficult. What saved them was that it was a litigation firm, and they could get copies of
pleadings from their adversaries and the courts. But they lost a lot of their internal work because they didn't have a lot of backup."
Law firms in Mississippi and Louisiana had an even worse scenario. "It's a pretty complete loss when your whole office goes down, and you probably lost most of your equipment," says Ragsdale.
So after Katrina, and in the middle of heavy rains that flooded his house's basement, Ragsdale has, indeed, been thinking about disaster planning. His firm, which has two attorneys on North Harrison Street and four in Florham Park, does litigation, corporate and commercial, employment, real estate, trust and estate, tax, business law, zoning, and land use.
Everybody has computer backups now, says Ragsdale, and keeps their clients' wills in a fireproof vault off premises. "And anything we generate - a will, a trust, a brief, a pleading, or correspondence - is on the computer."
"What is not normally in your computer are the things you receive. Even there, certain kinds of documents you will scan and get them into your computers. But the smaller and midsize firms don't have the capability of scanning all the
documents," he says.
Commercial transactions leave a huge paper trail, because so many different versions float back and forth. But the history of the document is tracked in the computer, says Ragsdale.
Ragsdale saves E-mails electronically and also prints hard copies. "A paper file in front of you is easier to look through."
He takes his laptop home every night ("that's part of my protection") and if the office were rendered unusable, he would work from his home. Like most lawyers, he does his research electronically and could do that from home with his DSL connection.
Nevertheless, his home office is not equipped with a good printer and fax machine. In the event of an emergency he would have to go out and buy them. With the water in his cellar rising on the day of the interview, he is also thinking of buying a generator.
Carchman, Sochor, Schwartz, Ragsdale & Cohen LLC, 457 North Harrison Street, Suite 108, Princeton 08540. Richard A. Ragsdale, partner. 609-924-7179; fax, 609-683-9501. Home page: www.NJ-Lawyer.com
New Jersey has published an accounting of how it has spent its Homeland Security funds, received from the federal government. The state's Attorney General's office has distributed more than $225 million since January, 2002. These grants represent the single largest funding source for the state's first responder and law enforcement communities. They have been distributed according to a comprehensive plan to provide police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical services personnel with equipment and training to help them protect lives in the event of an attack or natural disaster.
County and municipal officials decide how to spend their homeland security funding. New Jersey's global funding strategy has been developed by the New Jersey Domestic Security Preparedness Task Force. The Task Force is the state's
cabinet-level homeland security body that sets statewide preparedness policy and oversees its implementation. It receives advice on how to distribute funds from a subcommittee made up for representatives from state agencies, state
universities, the Port Authority, and New Jersey's local law enforcement, firefighter, emergency medical services, and hazmat response communities. Through fiscal year 2004, Mercer County had received $3,835,498; Middlesex had received $6,907,526; Somerset had received $3,290,339; and Hunterdon had received $2,708,440.
There have been some delays in counties and cities spending federal and state funds largely due to cumbersome purchasing procedures mandated by Congress and by the state. The Task Force states, in a prepared statement, that it is urging
these governmental entities to change these "outdated rules."
Washington Group: Workplace Violence
Princeton in general and Carnegie Center in particular is not immune to hurricane or another weather disaster, says Joe Herrity, director of corporate security for Washington Group International, a global company with 25,000 employees. He works from the 100-person Carnegie Center location, which is the headquarters of the power and biopharmaceutical units.
"You look around the country and see what the weather has done to other buildings and you would have to say yes, there could be damage. Hurricanes have the potential of carrying debris that becomes shrapnel," say Herrity. (Stay away from windows is the standard advice).
Weather events that don't decimate the building also count as disasters he says, remembering the floods last year when parts of the Route 1 and I-295 intersection were under water.
The company's Houston office closed for Rita. If the Carnegie Center office closed, he has contingency plans to move to the next closest office or to rent space and set up at a new location.
Herrity's main goal is to prepare employees: "Do the proper training, and give them the information, then let them make their own decisions about whether they should come to work that day, leave early, or try to work at home." Pop-up
messages will appear on each worker's terminal.
"In case we have to shelter employees in place, we have stockpiles of water. We would not turn anybody away if, God forbid, something happens, and a neighboring office needed help. At all our locations we have redundant communication facilities - satellite, IP phones, Internet, everything except carrier pigeons."
As a large multinational company with interests all over the world, the Washington Group has some unusual vulnerabilities. "Our name is known around the world, says Herrity, "Not as much as if we were a defense contractor like Raytheon. But the name - somebody in the Middle East doesn't understand the difference between the Washington Group and Washington D.C." In other words, anger at the nation could spill out to spell danger for the company.
"We teach our employees that being aware is the most important thing - aware of surroundings, procedures, policies, and issues related to company and the world," says Herrity.
Each employee is given an emergency preparedness guide on how to respond to different types of emergencies and issues. All employees have Internet connectivity and can get information from the corporate intranet. Daily advisories go to the supervisors who have projects overseas and to anyone else who signs up for them.
"I spent a lot of my adult life preparing for these things and working to prevent them," says Herrity, 53. He grew up in Yardville, where his father was a line foreman for Public Service Electric & Gas, and after serving in the U.S. Navy and the Army National Guard he worked his way up in state law enforcement, coming to the company in 1998 when it was owned by Raytheon. Married, he has a son and four daughters; his oldest daughter was in the U.S. Air Force and is in law enforcement for the federal government, and his youngest is in elementary school. With a three-person department, he taps consultants in such areas as personal security (kidnaping) and IT.
Herrity believes Princeton's geographic location between New York and Philadelphia puts it the line of sight for some sort of terrorist attack, or the collateral damage that would result. But he worries less about terrorism than about workplace violence, and he cites statistics that 17 workplace violence events occur each week in this nation. "Employee awareness is our first line of defense, and we tell employees what constitutes a threat," says Herrity. He also works with a former FBI profiler to handle, for instance, any troubled ex-employee who has made threats and is known to have weapons.
"We would post his picture with all our security offices at the entrances, and if he shows up, we make sure that somebody talks to him." For a person judged a severe danger, security would simply call 911.
His worst disaster: "We lost a whole floor at the World Trade Center, 13 employees, a catastrophic loss."
Washington Group International (WGII), 510 Carnegie Center, Princeton 08540-5287. 609-720-2000; fax, 609-720-2050. Home page: www.wgint.com
Stark & Stark: PDFs for Closings
Stark & Stark, which has nearly 100 lawyers at its headquarters on Lenox Drive, has hired one of its clients, Kenneth Peterson of Research Park-based Churchill & Harriman, to do its disaster planning. Peterson focuses on IT but has also
branched out to more general crisis management. "We should be able to operate outside of this structure shortly after something should occur," says Allen Silk, chairman of the business law department.
For a closing, instead of making paper copies all the documents will be scanned and sent as a PDF, says Silk. "Or we will create a CD-ROM, if the client would prefer that for the closing." The electronic copies are not only less cumbersome but they are also much less expensive.
Nevertheless, Stark & Stark must retain one original copy of every important transaction. This copy goes into a "minute book," kept for each client, in case there is any question about the original signatures. So if the building burned
down, Stark & Stark would lose the minute books but would have the PDFs.
As of now, hard copies are the only copies for archival files. As time goes on Stark & Stark will scan documents from the past.
Silk recommends an Internet-based digital storage system for personal files available from Guardian Financial. Called the Living Balance Sheet, it offers Guardian clients the chance to store all information, including scanned documents of wills and trusts, on the Web, so it is available anytime, anywhere.
Stark & Stark, 993 Lenox Drive, Building Two, Lawrenceville 08648. John A. Sakson, Lewis J. Pepperman, co-managing partners. 609-896-9060. Www.stark-stark.com