JUDICIAL BRANCH EMERGENCY PLANNING MOVES FORWARD
What would happen if the New Castle County Courthouse were destroyed by fire or the Sussex County Family Court Building were damaged by a hurricane? While none of us like to think about such dire possibilities, it is imperative that the Judicial Branch be prepared to handle such scenarios. To that end, the Branch has been participating in statewide efforts to develop plans for the continuity of operations in the event of a disaster. It recently became one of the first State entities to complete the Living Disaster Recovery Planning System (LDRPS), a statewide effort coordinated by the Department of Technology and Information. Each court and the Administrative Office of the Courts participated in this process and developed a plan tailored to its operational needs, which was then compiled into an overall Judicial Branch plan. Included in the plan are the designation of key decision-makers in emergency situations and the identification of lines of communication. The plan also prioritizes judicial functions for reestablishment during disaster recovery and identifies the equipment, particularly computer hardware and networks, needed to support each function as it is reestablished.
The next phase of continuity of operations planning will involve testing of the plan in a process known as Notifind. Although this testing will most likely involve a tabletop exercise, the court system has already conducted a limited test of establishing temporary court operations off site during the U.S. Marshal's Fugitive Safe Surrender Program in the spring of 2009. Continuity of operations planning for the Judicial Branch was supported by legislation passed in the spring of 2009 which permits the Chief Justice to declare a judicial emergency and take necessary actions such as ordering that court be held in a different county or suspending normal deadlines.