November 01, 2013

Disaster Planning A View from Michigan’s Highest Court

By John Ort

Wednesday, April 17, 2013, was like any other beautiful, sunny spring morning in the city of Mount Clemens, a suburb of Detroit—that is, until an electrical fire started in the Old County Building, next door to the six-story Macomb County Circuit courthouse. Emergency first responders arrived and began evacuating the county building, as anxious court staff watched from their office windows. They wondered: How serious was the situation? Just as the court administrator began making phone calls to find out, all telephone lines and computer network connectivity went dead.

As it turned out, the courthouse did not need to be evacuated, and, fortunately, no one was hurt. The same could not be said of the county’s information technology (IT) systems, however. All internal and external electronic communication and recordkeeping systems were down. It took county IT technicians a week to put together a patchwork of remotely shared IT systems to get back online before the court could regain its recordkeeping, e-mail, and communication capabilities. Three weeks after the incident, court employees were still catching up on data entry.

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