Oh No! My Office Caught on Fire! Be Prepared In Case This Happens to You

I will never forget the last firm I worked at in 1990 had $1 million in renovations done in the firm, which consisted of two floors in a downtown Los Angeles high-rise building. The attorney I was working for was extremely meticulous with her cases and files, which were the most amazingly organized files I’d ever seen in all of my many years in the legal secretarial field. While she wasn’t an easy person to work with, I really liked her because her meticulousness and expectations in having things a certain way taught me so much. For instance, filing had to be done immediately, which makes me wonder if that’s where I suddenly got the bug that files must be efficient!

Now back to the renovation. We were temporarily relocated to other floors while the work was being completed. This caused the attorney I worked for to be even more particular than usual about the files being more organized since we’d have to move back in a few months.

The big day for us to move back finally arrived. We returned to our old floor, which was beautifully renovated. The painters were putting the last touches of varnish on the baseboards and the electricians were busy working away. Apparently, one of the painters left an open container of varnish or other chemical near an electrical outlet, then something sparked and the entire floor caught fire.

As luck would have it, out of all the offices on the entire floor, my attorney’s office was the one that completely burned…every single file was destroyed. Needless to say she was devastated. Not too long after this happened, she quit the firm, stop practicing law altogether and started writing children’s books.

Fortunately, today we have a plethora of backups to choose from – server, external, the cloud, scanning, etc. So there really shouldn’t be an excuse not to have any backup, right? Well, through my assessments I’ve been horrified to learn that some offices didn’t even have a back up system to the cloud in place.

In fact, one of my previous clients did utilize the cloud, but the accounting data wasn’t being backed up onto it. Their bookkeeper was a bit old fashioned and kept her work backed up on a flash drive! Well, the unthinkable happened – an overloaded power strip started a fire and the entire building burned to the ground. You want to guess where the flash drive was? In the bookkeeper’s desk drawer, gone up in flames with everything else. Everything had to be recreated by obtaining duplicate bank statements from the bank and tracing back to God knows what in order to make sense of it all. With this being a non-profit organization, the records had to be in place for auditing purposes and the funding received for the programs.

And yet, it gets even better. Remember the cloud backup they did have? Well there was a mix-up with the credit card and it wasn’t being processed. So when they went to retrieve the backup, the data had not been backed up in five months due to lack of payment!

Two years prior to the fire, I’d implemented the filing system for the organization and had most of that part of the system in my records, but not the documentation. After the building was rebuilt, they hired me to recreate a duplicate system and create a new one, which was quite costly for them.

Just think of the hours and money wasted in recreating everything, not to mention the headache of dealing with the insurance company! To think most of it could’ve been avoided with the proper backup system in place.

Are you prepared if a fire occurs in your office? If so, great! Be sure to calendar and review everything every six months to ensure your client and accounting files are safe and instantly retrievable. If not, then there’s no time like the present to start.

Everyone in business needs to prepare a disaster recovery plan. It is extremely important to know how you’ll recover all client, data and accounting files in order to have as minimal downtime as possible for your firm or business. Preparation enables your office to continue forward without the panic of trying to figure out what to do.