November 7, 2012
Over a week after Hurricane Sandy struck the eastern seaboard, residents of New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Connecticut, and other areas along the East Coast are struggling to return their lives to normal even as their homes and businesses may have been destroyed or severely damaged in the storm. Many remain without heat or power and face long odds just getting to and from work. Each day, employers and employees in the affected storm area have had to improvise to remain open, providing everything from critical services to a touch of normalcy to dazed residents. Disaster relief agencies like the American Red Cross and other relief organizations are working with state and federal agencies to help homeowners, business owners and other residents.
According to the Institute for Business and Home Safety, one in four businesses does not reopen after a major disaster. For that reason, the Small Business Administration encourages business owners and employers to take a number of steps to mitigate the effects of a major disaster like Hurricane Sandy.
GCs and those within corporate legal departments may be tasked with developing disaster recovery manuals, emergency plans, and proactive tests to make sure employees know their role to protect others’ lives and preserve business assets.
Emergency Preparedness is Key for In-House Counsel
For in-house counsel, emergency preparedness and planning redundancy are keys to business survival. Disasters may strike in the middle of the night, on the weekend, and any time other than nine to five. General counsel and those tasked to lead emergency response need to be prepared with phone numbers and contingency plans, get on the phone with executives, key employees and others identified as key to operations, make contact to determine that all employees are safe and accounted for, start assessing the damage, and begin rescue or recovery efforts, if necessary.
And every business and corporate legal department will need to overcome unique hurdles in the face of disaster based on industry, geography, and preparedness. Organizations such as the Association of Corporate Counsel and the American Bar Association’s Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness offer a wealth of resources for in-house counsel to plan for disaster and mitigate risks, when possible. As Hurricane Sandy has most recently demonstrated, businesses need to be prepared to weather any storm.