Legal Community Swept Into Action By Sandy

, The Connecticut Law Tribune

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Disaster Planning

Sandy also has resulted in enhance disaster planning, some of it involving lawyers and legal issues.

Nilda Havrilla, managing attorney of Connecticut Legal Services' housing unit, said a task force was formed to help relocate public-housing tenants after Sandy. That, in turn, led to the development of a broader disaster response plan. For future disasters, the goal is for there to be "no scrambling, no looking around" to get all the relevant governmental agencies and other groups to the table to assist people who are displaced because of disasters, Havrilla said.

"More than likely, there will be another disaster like this," she said.

Brenda Bergeron, an attorney with the state Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, said that after Irene hit in August 2011, Gov. Dannel Malloy directed her division to launch an emergency preparedness initiative. The effort brought together representatives of local and state agencies, utility companies and private nonprofits, such as the Red Cross.

The planning involved a number of legal issues. For instance, contracts and memorandums of understanding had to be drafted on the role different agencies would take on following disasters. And there needed to be formal agreements on who takes responsibility for liability and workers' compensation for states employees who are sent to other states to assist after storms.

"Because of the governor's initiative, when we had Sandy, things ran smoothly," Bergeron said.

The state court system also reacted to Irene and Sandy by updating its emergency response plan.

Melanie Kerr, program manager with court operations for the Judicial Branch, said the court system now staffs a desk in the state emergency operations center. That means official will participate in the twice-daily briefings the governor gets during major storms and it also means the court system will have better information to communicate to employees and the public on the status of court facilities.

"We've increasingly done a better job coordinating with the executive branch, communicating with our personnel within the Judicial Branch and being prepared for disasters," Kerr said

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