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District Court Participates in Disaster Drill
Last month, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia and the Administrative Office (AO) participated, along with executive branch agencies, in Exercise Eagle Horizon, a test of the response by federal organizations to a major natural or man-made disaster. In the exercise, selected staff at both the district court and the AO relocated to alternate sites in the wake of a fictional emergency, which triggered continuity of operations plans (COOPs). Throughout the day, participants in the Eastern District of Virginia responded to a number of situations or events—called “injects” as a way to test COOP procedures, equipment, and the ability of staff to respond. Mentors from the District Courts for the Southern District of New York and the District of Columbia, and the Court of International Trade in New York City also observed the court’s participation and offered advice based on their own experience.
“Many of our staff had not played in a disaster exercise before,” said Lance Bachman, COOP administrator for the Eastern District of Virginia. “In our table top exercise, we went around the room and we discussed our responsibilities in all the different areas, such as information technology, jury selection, case management, and human resources, and how each of us would react given different situations. Our goal was to learn our roles and responsibilities and to share information. Participating in Eagle Horizon reinforced our confidence in our COOP plan.”
Currently, Bachman and Chief Deputy Laura Drewa are sharing their COOP plan with staff in the district’s different divisions through video and Powerpoint presentations. “That has really helped us get our staff interested and engaged in the COOP process,” said Drewa. “It also has given us the opportunity to stress the importance of keeping emergency contact information up-to-date.”