Emergency Preparedness/Disaster Recovery Resource Guide

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Since the tragedies of September 11, court disaster recovery and business continuity goals have broadened to include not only information technology issues but also legal requirements, file management, terrorists, and security concerns. By generating a variety of creative planning alternatives that can prevent panic within the workplace, the court administrator can protect the essential courthouse job functions from potential disasters.

Links to related online resources are listed below. Non-digitized publications may be borrowed from the NCSC Library; call numbers are provided.

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  • Emergency Planning for Juvenile Justice Residential Facilities. October 2011). Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. This publication is the first comprehensive planning guide to address the specific needs of children, youth, and families involved in the justice system during an emergency.
  • A Framework for Improving Cross-Sector Coordination for Emergency Preparedness and Response: Actions Steps for Public Health, Law Enforcement, the Judiciary and Corrections. (July 2008). McKing Consulting Corporation. Disaster preparedness plans have the potential to protect at-risk populations from harm and maintain or quickly restore the routines and functions of civil society. But even the most thorough and prescient plan will fall short if it does not reach across professional jurisdictions and agencies.  This framework document is designed to be a starting point for setting forth the major gaps and problems in cross-sectoral and cross-jurisdictional emergency preparedness planning as well as some key opportunities for addressing them. (Permanent Link)
  • Ortwein, Carolyn E. Director of Emergency Management: A Case for a New Court Position. (2007). Future Trends in State Courts. This brief article introduces a new court position, a director of emergency management, who would help tighten court security. The article looks at the responsibilities of this position and where it fits in to the existing structure of the courts.
  • Continuity of Court Operations: Steps for COOP Planning. (2007). NCSC and Bureau of Justice Assistance. Traditionally, a COOP plan is developed and implemented for situations in which the courthouse or court-related facilities are threatened or inaccessible (e.g., as a result of a natural or manmade disaster. This guide also includes pandemic planning.
  • A Comprehensive Emergency Management Program. (2007). 187 pages. The purpose of establishing an emergency management program within the courts is to .ensure that the capability exists to respond effectively to a broad array of potential operational interruptions.
  • NFPA 1600 - Standard on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs. (2007). National Fire Protection Association. The NFPA provides a standardized basis for disaster/emergency management planning and business continuity programs in private and public sectors by illustrating common program elements, techniques, and processes. (Permanent Link)
  • Bernardino, Arthur J., Jr. et al.Business Continuity Management Mini Guide. (2006). Williamsburg, Va.: National Association of Court Management "This guide attempts to provide guidance and assistance to courts in their planning and actual efforts to prepare a business continuity management (BCM) plan or continuity of operations plan (COOP). This includes posing the questions and issues that should be asked and answered to enable courts to adequately prepare for disasters of all sizes." - Intro. (KF8733.7 Z9 B87 2006) Note: May be ordered from NACM.
  • Position Paper on Emergency Preparedness in the State Courts. (December 2006). Conference of State Court Administrators. "The goal of this paper is to identify what state court leaders should be doing to ensure their court systems are able to meet this responsibility in the future.  It identifies key policies and practices designed to promote effective emergency planning and business continuity in their jurisdictions."--Intro
  • Baehler, Aimee, and Douglas K. Somerlot. Developing and Evaluating Courthouse Security and Disaster Preparedness. (2005). Denver CO: Justice Management Institute. This report is a collaborative process between State and Federal Courts with curriculum materials.  It provides court and justice system leaders and judicial branch educators and managers with information about the planning, presentation, and impact of the workshop, which can be used as a foundation for their own security and business-continuity efforts.
  • Hardenbergh, Don.The Future of Court Security and Judicial Safety. (2005). Future Trends in State Courts. This article discusses the concerns over the safety of our nation's courthouses and judicial officers and how courts are looking for new ways to improve upon the security of court facilities.
  • Siegel, Lawrence et al. Planning for Emergencies: Immediate Events and Their Aftermath. (2005). Washington, D.C.: Justice Programs Office, School of Public Affairs, American University. A Guideline for Local Courts "is designed for use by courts in rural and smaller populated areas to highlight issues and considerations relevant to court emergency and disaster preparedness planning. The Guideline is intended to provide a framework for courts to develop preparedness plans that can be activated to address both the immediate impact of emergency situations as well as ensure the continuity of court operations over a protracted period of time."--Intro.  (Permanent Link)
  • Emergency Preparedness Initiative: Guide on the Special Needs of People with Disabilities. (2004). National Organization on Disabilities. This Guide highlights key disability concerns to those officials and experts responsible for emergency planning in their communities, and assists them in developing plans that will take into account the needs and insights of people with disabilities before, during and after emergencies. (Permanent Link)
  • Ernest B. Abbot, Chair. Draft Checklist for State and Local Government Attorneys to Prepare for Possible Disasters.(2003). American Bar Association Task Force on Emergency Management and Homeland Security Checklist of issues, policies, and legal questions to be addressed under emergency conditions.(Permanent Link)
  • Emergency Management for Courts. (October 2003). NCSC Best Practices Institute. This report to ensure the safety of court facilities is critical to court performance. The emergency management practices were drafted by Institute staff (based on themes from conference presentations and resource materials) and vetted by five experts in the area of court safety.
  • Disaster Recovery Planning for Courts: A Guide to Business Continuity Planning. (2000). Williamsburg, Va.: National Association for Court Management. A compendium designed to help judges, court managers, and staff step through the planning process to prepare their courts to keep business operations up and running, even in a disaster. Included are actual disaster case studies from jurisdictions across the country.
  • Critical Incident Protocol: A Public and Private Partnership. (2000). East Lansing, MI.: Michigan State University. This publication discusses the essential and beneficial process of the public and private sectors working together to plan for emergencies. Important elements include planning, mitigation, business recovery, lessons learned, best practices, and plan exercising. Whether it is a minor incident or a major terrorist activity involving weapons of mass destruction, the community’s collective resources must unite and work to understand the processes necessary to resolve the matter. (Permanent Link)
  • Emergency Management Guide for Business and Industry: A Step-by-Step Approach to Emergency Planning, Response and Recovery for Companies of All Sizes. (1993). Washington, D.C.: Federal Emergency Management Agency. General recommendations and steps for establishing comprehensive emergency plans. Designed as an all-purpose guide for any type of business.  (Permanent Link).
  • Flango, Victor et al. Emergency Preparedness in Dependency Courts: Ten Questions that Courts Serving Abused and Neglected Children Must Address. The NCSC has produced this Web publication on issues to consider during times of crisis that will promote the safety, permanency, and well-being of abused and neglected children. (Permanent Link)

Preparedness and the ADA

  • An ADA Guide for Local Governments: Making Community Emergency Preparedness and Response Programs Accessible to People with Disabilities. U.S. Department of Justice, Disability Rights Section. One of the most important roles of local government is to protect their citizenry from harm, including helping people prepare for and respond to emergencies. Making local government emergency preparedness and response programs accessible to people with disabilities is a critical part of this responsibility. This guide provides a good resource for those persons responsible for their community’s emergency planning or emergency response activities and illustrates how you should involve people with disabilities in identifying needs and evaluating effective emergency management practices. (Permanent Link)
  • Emergency Evacuation of People with Physical Disabilities From Buildings. (2005). U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C., Interagency Committee on Disability Research; 2004 Conference Proceeding. This conference provided a forum for leaders, first responders, industry representatives, people with physical disabilities, and others to discuss the impact of building and life safety codes on the evacuation of people with physical disabilities from buildings, the current evacuation procedures for people with physical disabilities from the first-responder perspective, the experiences of people with physical disabilities during emergency evacuations from buildings, the design and development of different types of evacuation devices, and the current state of research on mobility equipment, human factors, and egress modeling. (Permanent Link)

Preserving Records Libraries

  • Safeguarding a Nation`s Identity: The Readiness of State Archives to Protect the Records That Identify Who We Are, Secure Our Rights, and Tell Our Story as a Nation. (February 2007). Council of State Archivists. This report is the culmination of the first phase of a long-term initiative to address statewide emergency preparedness for archives and records throughout the nation. The Emergency Preparedness Initiative, led by the Council of State Archivists, was prompted by the devastating impact of the 2005 hurricane season on records and archives. This report details the readiness of state archives to handle disasters. (Permanent Link).
  • Records Management Disaster Planning Toolkit. (June 2007). State Records of South Australia. The purpose of this Records Management Disaster Planning Toolkit is to assist agencies in developing and maintaining a disaster plan for records and recordkeeping systems. It contains templates, flowcharts and checklists that can be completed by agencies in the course of developing their plans. Agencies are encouraged to use this Toolkit in conjunction with the Records Management Disaster Planning Guideline. (Permanent Link)
  • Records Management Disaster Planning Guideline. (June 2007). State Records of South Australia Records Management Disaster Planning Guideline provides a generic plan for the development of a Disaster Plan for records and recordkeeping systems.
  • How to Create a Vital Records Protection Plan. (June 2003). New York State Unified Court System. The purpose of a Vital Records Protection Plan is to identify and protect those essential records that are needed by a court system in order to continue normal operations before, during, and after emergencies. By realizing the importance of these records for continuing your court’s or office functions and arranging for the protection of these records, you will be able to save valuable time and resources after a disaster or emergency. This will enable you to concentrate on restoring operations rather than spending time and money trying to restore information necessary to continue operations.  (Permanent Link)
  • Disaster Planning Manual. (August 2002). New York State Unified Court System. This manual is designed to "assist court personnel in exercising their records custodial responsibilities and allow those who utilize our court system to maintain a proper history of their court actions." Records maintenance, emergency response, recovery and salvage, and how disasters affect records are all described in this resource. (Permanent Link)
  • Fox, Lisa L. Disaster Preparedness Workbook for U.S. Navy Libraries and Archives. (November 1998). "This workbook focuses on the disaster related needs of librarians, archivists, and records managers in documentary collections--that is, in collections of printed documents, magnetic media, electronic records, and so on" and "provides basic information and instructions as well as a template that personnel can use to write their own plans."--Preface. It contains a large appendix with sample forms that can be modified for use by your court or law library. (Permanent Link)
  • Lowell, Howard P. Protecting Court Records: Disaster Preparedness for Court Managers. (1993). Court Manager 8, No. 1. The first paragraph outlines three reasons for court managers to plan for disasters. "Disasters happen.  Destruction of records and loss of vital information often result from these disasters. Court managers, as custodians of important records that bear on the successful and impartial administration of justice, have a responsibility to safeguard these records from such loss or destruction."  This article discusses the ways a court manager can prepare for disaster and mitigate the damage to records.
  • Conservation Online: Resources for Conservation Professionals. Stanford University Libraries. CoOL, a project of the Preservation Department of Stanford University Libraries, is a full-text library of conservation information, covering a wide spectrum of topics of interest to those involved with the conservation of library, archives and museum materials. (Permanent Link) Includes a list of commercial services, suppliers, etc.( Permanent Link Historic ) ( Permanent Link)
  • Disaster Response and Recovery. The National Archives. The National Archives preservation and archive professionals provide some tips for disaster response and recovery as it relates to vital records and documents.  They suggest that a "pro-active rather than re-active approach to disaster preparation is the best means of mitigating damage from natural disasters or other forms of destruction. However, despite systematic planning efforts, when emergencies do occur — whether they are small scale or catastrophic — they can be overwhelming."  This Web site provides information and guidance on recovering various types of record materials. (Permanent Link)
  • Library Disaster Preparedness and Recovery Plan. University of Virginia. Succinct guidelines for the recovery and salvage of damaged paper, microfilm, photographic, and electronic records.
  • Northeast Document Conservation Center. The NEDCC is a leader in the field of document preservation and conservation. Their Web site offers a great deal of information on all aspects of these related fields, including technical papers, instructional material, information on workshops and other educational opportunities, sources for preservation funding, and preservation and conservation services. (Permanent Link)
  • Records and Document Recovery Techniques. Florida State Library and Archives. The Florida State Library and Archives provides a simple yet valuable chart outlining the different types of materials that may be water damaged in a disaster and the recommended methods of recovery. (Permanent Link)
  • Farrell, Kathleen. Safeguarding Court Records: Paper, Microfiche and Automated Data. United States Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York. A brief, but pointed outline of how to deal with water-damaged and mold-infested records in various formats, along with a section on biological-hazard contamination of records.
  • Wet Collection Recovery. National Park Service. Harpers Ferry Center. The National Park Service has provided an online presentation of methods to recover your vital records in the event they are damaged by water. Included in the presentation is a disaster-recovery checklist, a list of necessary emergency supplies, and further resources on the topic.

Preserving Technology

  • Patterson, Pat. Disaster Recovery Planning for Technology. (2007). Court Information Technology Officers Consortium: Technology Experience Bulletin, TEB: 2007-02. This short article presents an outline for developing an effective Disaster Recovery Plan for your organization’s technology. Since many organizations are dependent on technology, this article contains key principles which should be considered as part of any planning for the recovery and continuity of technology systems after an emergency or disaster.
  • Swanson, Marianne et al. Contingency Planning Guide for Information Technology Systems. (June 2002). Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Standards and Technology, Technology Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. " This document provides guidance to individuals responsible for preparing and maintaining IT contingency plans. The document discusses essential contingency plan elements and processes, highlights specific considerations and concerns associated with contingency planning for various types of IT systems, and provides examples to assist readers in developing their own IT contingency plans."--Intro.
  • Florida Courts Technology Commission Report to the Supreme Court of Florida Regarding Court Technology Continuity and Disaster Recovery Planning. (December 2002). Florida Courts Technology Commission. The Commission identified and approved six of the twenty-three recommendations in the Emergency Preparedness Report as directly and specifically relating to emergency preparedness. These recommendations were acknowledged by the Commission as recommended interim guidelines for Court Emergency Preparedness Plans. The Commission also considered seventeen other Emergency Preparedness Report technology recommendations in addressing its longer-term goal of developing an overall Judicial Branch Information Security Program. A list of all twenty-three recommendations referred by the Court can be found in this report. (Permanent Link)
  • Recovery and Restoration: A Sample Plan. (2000). National Association for Court Management. This is a resource contained within the NACM Disaster Recovery Planning for the Courts: A Guide to Business Continuity Planning.  This  sample plan for technology is provided by the Arizona Supreme Court's Recovery Guide for its automated systems. Although not a substitute for individual court planning, this sample document illustrates a useful approach to the restoration management process.

Public Health

  • Health Law and Policy Institute, University of Houston Law Center Control Measures and Public Health Emergencies: A Texas Bench Book. (2014). Information to assist judges regarding quarantine and isolation of individuals, property, and carriers.
  • Arkansas Supreme Court Statement on H1N1 Virus and the Courts. (2009). Arkansas Supreme Court. This document attempts to provide Arkansas courts with guidance on how to prepare and respond in the event that the H1N1 disease spreads over a length of time. The two main goals of a judicial pandemic planning are: 1. Operating in a way that protects the health and safety of everyone at court facilities; and 2. Keeping the courts open to ensure justice for the people we serve.
  • Ringland, Robert P. Public Health Preparedness Bench Book: A Guide for the Ohio Judiciary and Bar on Legal Preparedness for Public Health Emergencies and Routine Health Cases. (2009). This guide is designed to assist judges, court personnel, and members of the Ohio bar deal with catastrophes that may occur and interrupt the administration of justice and the Ohio courts. (Permanent Link)
  • Arizona Court Response to Public Health Emergencies. (June 2008). Phoenix: Arizona Supreme Court Report and Recommendations Committee on Court Security and Emergency Preparedness. In December 2003, the Committee on Court Security and Emergency Preparedness issued a report Preparing for the Unthinkable (see above). That report focused on court emergency response planning and security. It provided the courts a structure from which to develop an emergency response plan. This supplement to the original report expands its scope in two significant ways. First, it asks the courts to extend their planning process from emergency response into continuity of operations planning. Second, it expands the range of emergency scenarios to include pandemics which could impact the courts in a markedly different manner then other disasters.
  • Coordinated Implementation of Community Response Measures (Including Social Distancing) to Control the Spread of Pandemic Respiratory Disease: A Guide for Developing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for Public Health, Law Enforcement, Corrections, and the Judiciary. (July 2008). Public Health and Law Enforcement Emergency Preparedness Workgroup. Among the many lessons of recent emergency response efforts is the realization that no sector or jurisdiction is likely to face a major disaster or its aftermath alone. While emergency preparedness plans aim to maintain or quickly restore the routines and functions of civil society, even the most thorough and prescient plan will fall short if it does not span jurisdictions, sectors, agencies, and organizations. This document provides guidance for consideration by state, tribal, local, and other jurisdictions when addressing planning efforts to coordinate cross-sector implementation of community responses (including social distancing) to prevent or limit the spread of a severe, contagious respiratory disease such as pandemic influenza.
  • Pandemic Influenza Benchguide: Legal Issues Concerning Quarantine and Isolation. (2007). Florida Court Education Council. "This benchguide was designed to serve as an educational resource for the courts in the event of a pandemic influenza or an analogous situation."--Purpose.  The Publications Committee of the Florida Court Education Council designed this benchguide to be a purposeful, concise, and practical repository of information that judges and attorneys can utilize in court proceedings. (Permanent Link)
  • Pennsylvania Public Health Law Bench Book. (2007). Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts and University of Pittsburgh Center for Public Health Preparedness. "In an age when political unrest, global travel and emerging biological threats can combine to create social, political and economic havoc worldwide, Pennsylvania’s court system may be required to address unprecedented challenges." The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts has developed this bench book to provide judges with information and guidance should they be presented with public-health cases. (Permanent Link)
  • Guidelines for Pandemic Emergency Preparedness Planning: A Road Map for the Courts. (April 2007). Washington, D.C.: American University Criminal Courts Technical Assistance Project. (Permanent Link) "This publication was developed to encourage court planners throughout America to consider possible issues the court may face and how to solve them-in advance of a pandemic"--forward. This resource is a framework that can be used by courts to develop pandemic emergency plans.
  • Justice and Public Health Systems Planning: Confronting a Pandemic Outbreak: Report of Symposium Discussions: Strategies, Practices and Protocols. (February 2007). Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), facilitated a symposium on May 24–25, 2006 in Chicago, Illinois entitled "Justice and Public Health Systems Planning: Confronting a Pandemic Outbreak," which brought together experts within the justice and public health communities to collaborate and prepare to confront this public health threat to America’s communities. This report summarizes the principal strategies participants discussed at the symposium and provides the resulting recommended practices and protocols.
  • Courthouse Preparedness for Public Health Emergencies: Critical Issues for Bioterror/Biohazard Preparedness Planning. (January 2006). Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Administrative Office of the Courts. "This resource provides information that courthouse personnel need to know if faced with a potential biohazard/bioterror event and what they will need to know to adequately plan for effective response to such an event in the future."--Intro.  The information contained in this resource was based upon experience dealing with possible biohazard threats to the Pennsylvania courts.
  • Epidemics and the California Courts. (October 2006). Judicial Council of California. This is a resource for the courts as they create and continue to enhance their continuity-of-operations plans and emergency protocols.  This guide provides important information that judges and court administrators should know about epidemics and pandemics and how to prepare and respond adequately to them. (Permanent Link).
  • Florida State Courts Strategy for Pandemic Influenza: Keeping the Courts Open in a Pandemic. (March 2006). Unified Supreme Court/Branch Court Management Group. This resource outlines the strategic goals of the Florida state courts in the event of a pandemic, i.e., how to deal with the crisis in a way that protects the health and safety of those using the courts and keeps the courts open to ensure justice.  The appendix contains a chart of the pandemic-response process, as well as forms and checklists for developing a plan. (Permanent Link)
  • Public Health Law Bench Book for Indiana Courts. (2005). Louisville: University of Louisville, Center for Public Health Law Partnerships. This "Bench Book is intended to protect the health and safety of communities by improving legal preparedness for both public health emergencies and more routine public health cases. In addition, it is our hope that this Bench Book will increase communication between the judiciary and public health agencies at the community, state, and national levels and across a broad spectrum of public health issues. This Bench Book is a reference tool that judges may use as they confront the range of public health issues that come to their courtrooms."--Preface. (Permanent Link).
  • Pandemic Influenza Planning Template. Florida State Courts (Permanent Link) The pandemic influenza planning template is an additional planning tool to help local courts prepare for a possible influenza pandemic as described in the Florida State Courts. Strategy for Pandemic Influenza released on March 29, 2006 (see below).  (Permanent Link) This template allows local courts to add specific detailed information regarding their local planning efforts and contains "boilerplate" language that can be expanded, edited, or deleted as needed.
  • PandemicFlu.gov. (Permanent Link) This Web site, managed by the Department of Health and Human Services, "provides comprehensive government-wide information on pandemic influenza and avian influenza for the general public, health and emergency preparedness professionals, policy makers, government and business leaders, school systems, and local communities." State and Local Government Planning and Response Activities can be accessed here. (Permanent Link)
  • Public Health Law Benchbooks. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC has collaborated with a number of states in the development of a public-health "bench book."  "Benchbooks are commonly used by judges as functional practice guides designed to accelerate their understanding of an area of law.  As states refine their approaches to bench book development, some are devoting a portion to a treatise-like discussion of public health law, intended for use by public health officials, state and local public health attorneys, and the public." (Permanent Link)

Disaster Events

  • Birkland, Thomas A. and Carrie A. Schneider. Emergency Management in the Courts: Trends After September 11th and Hurricane Katrina. (2007). Future Trends in State Courts. Based on the experiences in New York and Louisiana, this article examines the various plans that have been used by courts to respond to disasters.
  • Simon, Susan. Emergency/Disaster Training Manual for Volunteer Lawyers Following Hurricane Katrina. (2005). New Orleans: Louisiana State Bar Association. This manual has important information about how lawyers can assist persons affected by Hurricane Katrina/Rita.  Included in the manual is an overview of FEMA and non-FEMA legal assistance, a description of the process of providing legal assistance to disaster victims, and information you may need on such issues as housing, unemployment, and insurance.
  • 9-11 Summit Materials. September 2002). The emergency-management-related material in this compendium was presented during the 9-11 Summit, held in New York City in September 2002. The summit consisted of a conference for justice-system leadership facing terrorism and other catastrophic events.
  • Root, Oren. The Administration of Justice Under Emergency Conditions: Lessons Following the Attack on the World Trade Center. (2002). New York: Vera Institute of Justice This report examines how Manhattan courts continued to function in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The authors interviewed more than 50 officials and observed hundreds of court hearings. The examination revealed four issues crucial to the administration of justice under emergency conditions: leadership, the return to business as usual, the involvement of community representatives to bridge gaps with the public, and the institution of temporary legal oversight.
  • Lewis, Jim. Fire in the Courthouse!. (September 2000). County 12, No. 5. This article describes a few court employees' experiences when a fire ravaged the courthouse and how they managed after the destruction of court records and resources.


  • American Red Cross. Medical aid for disasters.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Deals with infectious diseases and epidemics.
  • Department of Homeland Security. (2006). Washington, D.C.: Department of Homeland Security Contact information for the DHS office in each of the 50 states, plus grant information. See also the Department's "Preparedness" information.  (Permanent Link).  Also see the Homeland Security State Contact List.
  • Federal Emergency Management Association. The first line of defense in disaster recovery.
  • Natural Hazards Center. University of Colorado. Since 1976, the Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center (NHRAIC) has served as a national and international clearinghouse of knowledge concerning the social-science and policy aspects of disasters. The center collects and shares research and experience related to preparedness for, response to, recovery from, and mitigation of disasters, emphasizing the link between hazard mitigation and sustainability to both producers and users of research and knowledge on extreme events.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Workplace safety resources.
  • Texas A&M University`s Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center. The Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center (HRRC) was established at Texas A&M University in 1988. The center engages in research on hazard mitigation, disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. The staff of the HRRC is interdisciplinary in nature and includes the expertise of architects, engineers, geographers, psychologists, and sociologists. The HRRC is dedicated to providing access to hazards information for homeowners, professionals, business investors, and the academic community.