PROJECT: Court Security and Emergency Preparedness Planning
8th District Courthouse, Vernal, UT
Ouachita County Courthouse, Camden, AR
Marion County Courthouse, Hannibal, MO
Meeting with Alaska state court officials
Mojave County Courthouse, Kingman, AZ
As a Senior Fellow of American University's Justice Projects Office I was Court Security Consultant on this recent project, traveling throughout eight states and working with more than twenty communities to assist local courts initiate and refine security and emergency preparedness plans. The project, which concentrated on courts in rural and small urban communities, found them to share many problems, particularly in bringing their needs and special responsibilities to the attention of their local governments.
An unusual but extremely important project for courts, its subject has become even more pressing since the disasters of Katrina and Rita. The complexities of scale, too often ignored in disaster planning, have lent emphasis to its scope; we simply cannot expect to rely on the communications and emergency services that normally are at our disposal when they are as much subject to destruction as those courthouses and their services we are trying to protect.
The topics we covered may be found in a report (in PDF format) available here, together with a group of recommendations and observations which are likely to be of interest to courts in large as well as small jurisdictions.
To the left are photographs of some of the courthouses and locations included in our visits. Though those shown here are relatively small buildings in small communities, the large complexes in St. Louis and Salt Lake City also participated in the project. The meetings in Alaska, which included representatives from jurisdictions throughout the state, were held at the Administrative Office of the Courts in Anchorage.
Quoting from the publication: "Consultant Lawrence Siegel identified and addressed the special circumstances that rural courts are likely to encounter in the face of an emergency:
While the Guideline is designed primarily to assist rural trial courts in developing and implementing emergency preparedness and response plans, it also provides step-by-step information that can be used by all courts that are interested in developing or reviewing plans. Topics include:
The Guideline is also appended with helpful materials such as: a needs-assessment planning tool, a description of hypothetical scenarios, and an annotated bibliography of planning resources."
For those in the several thousand smaller courts who are interested in helping to protect their own courts and communities, this publication is highly recommended.