Allen County Courts Prepare for the Unexpected
May 5, 2010 by Trevor Moore
Just as Jefferson County’s Courthouse fire of 2009 demonstrated the catastrophic impact of unforeseen events, ongoing efforts undertaken by the Allen County Courts are leading the way in preparing for such disruptions that could occur at any time. Agreeing to take the lead in helping to evolve the Indiana Courts Continuity Program in a way that will ultimately benefit all courts, Allen County has partnered with the Division of State Court Administration to test new components of continuity planning within the Indiana trial courts.
“The Courts in Allen County have benefited greatly by partnering with the Division of State Court Administration and Trevor Moore for our C.O.O.P. planning process. Through a series of face-to-face meetings, which some of our Judges have been able to attend, we have been able to streamline the process and save time. We’re also on our way to having a meaningful, practical tool to use when the need should arise” said Jerry Noble, Court Executive, Allen Superior Court.
As planning in Allen County continues, it is clear that the most significant recent change to continuity planning within the Indiana courts is the creation of the Continuity Planning Analyst position and the implementation of a flexible, streamlined format for plan development. The Continuity Planning Analyst provides a full-time, permanent resource for courts statewide. In addition to creating continuity procedures, documents and tools, State Court Administration created the new position to assist courts by:
- Providing continuity planning training and guidance, and
- Facilitating continuity planning activities such as determining the essential functions of a particular court, development of recovery strategies and plans and testing plans through drills and simulation.
Enhancements to the plan format will allow courts to quickly develop a plan that addresses basic issues like command and control and communication. The plan can then be continually improved over time through the addition of more in-depth components that cover specific considerations and recovery strategies for individual court functions. The flexibility of the plan format allows a court to start with a first-rate outline for an emergency and move to even more detailed and “robust” plans. When complete, a typical continuity plan will incorporate a Line of Succession, Plan Activation Team, Internal and External Contact Lists, Essential Functions and Recovery Checklists that address Essential Functions.
Over the past few months in Allen County, Jerry Noble, Superior Court Executive, and Tim Miller, Circuit Court Administrator, have worked successfully to:
- Develop a clear line of succession for leadership of the Allen County Courts,
- Compile complete contact information for all employees as well as vendors and other government agencies,
- Define the Essential Functions of the Civil, Criminal and Family Relations divisions as well as of the Clerk and Administrative area, and
- Prioritize the Essential Functions to determine which must be recovered within the first day following a disruption and which can be delayed.
The Division of State Court Administration is assisting in the efforts to develop recovery strategies and action plans for all Essential Functions of the Allen County courts. The goal is to ensure continuation of the most critical court services if impacted by disasters.