In attempting a do-it-yourself restoration:
Set priorities. Classify documents or books as: (a) Unimportant; it can be replaced
fairly easily. This category would contain duplicate forms, computer printouts for
material backed up elsewhere etc.; (b) Important it can be replaced, but it will be
time-consuming or expensive; e.g., bank records, correspondence from other
lawyers; (c) Irreplaceable. Work with the wettest records first, usually those on the
bottom shelf. Put records that are waiting to be processed into a refrigerator freezer
if at all possible.
First, remove all paper clips, metal fasteners and binders to prevent the formation of
rust, then: (1) Iron individual sheets of loose paper with low head from an iron,
photographic dryer or hair dryer; (2) Interleave sheets with absorbent paper stock,
e.g. blotter paper, blank newspaper stock. (Blank newspaper stock may be
purchased from your local newspaper. Make interleaved stacks no higher than six
inches and change paper every two or four hours as conditions warrant; (3) An
alternative to ironing documents is to microwave the paper. Remember, however
that removing too much moisture will cause document s to become brittle and
crumble at the slightest touch; (4) Photocopy wet papers by using Mylar carrier
sheets to protect the damaged document, then discard the damaged original
document and use the photocopy; (5) Purchase new file folders, pockets, boxes as
required. Time is clearly of the essence as mold growth is encouraged by conditions
of high relative humidity and high temperatures. Air circulation must be increased to
eliminate the stagnate air. Successful recovery of water-damaged documents will
depend on drying documents as quickly as possible. Dehumidification, cool
temperatures, and air movement are all extremely important. In some circumstances
it may require negotiation with the landlord to leave the air conditioning system
running 24 hours a day. Additional fans, dryers or dehumidifiers can be used to
supplement the efforts.
Mold and mildew are going to be serious problems because of the optimal condition
of heat and humidity in Florida. Unfortunately insect infestation under these
conditions will also flourish. Professional fumigation may be the only answer if an
extended period has elapsed before beginning restoration. Lysol may be too little to
Experts caution that before returning salvaged records to the office, the cabinets and
bookcases, desk drawers, etc., should be cleaned, repaired, sterilized and dried.
The technology industry has been preaching about data back-ups for years. How
many firms actually do is not known. Most, we suspect, do not! After a hurricane,
unless the media has been stored in a secured vault, even backed up data is likely to
be lost. The loss of data, which might contains work-in-progress, account receivable,
payroll, and past histories of cases, can be crippling. Thus, the recovery of data could
be crucial to the life of the law office.
The contaminants in water, such as sand, salt, mud, etc., are all big problems for
magnetic media. If you feel technically adept, you may try removing the computer’s
cover and cleaning boards with freon or freon-alcohol solvent. We recommend you
leave this task to the experts, however. Even if the machinery looks dry, if there is
any reason to suspect that it has been damaged by water, turn the machine on only
after you have determined that there is no water damage and that all equipment,
network cables, power cables, peripherals, and power outlets or strips, are dry and
grounded. If the machine has been water-damaged and you hope to recover data on
the hard disk, do not turn on the computer!
For most firms the data contained on damaged drives is crucial to the operation of
the firm, and should be recovered by professionals. Those who are technically
proficient may take out the hard drive and contact a company like On-Track Data
International that specializes in disk recovery. Their facilities have support personnel
to check computers for damage and to recover hard disks in a “clean room.”
One word of advice- if you do not believe that your equipment has been damaged,
protect yourself by taking a common sense approach in reconnecting your system
and powering up when the electricity is restored. Disconnect printers, monitors and
other peripherals, and add each piece of equipment to the system one at a time,
testing each individually if possible.
Rust will be the major culprit for most other equipment. If not now, it will be. Steel
parts and electronic components were not manufactured to be doused with water.
Wet toner becomes lumpy and unusable. All equipment should be serviced by a
factory representative as soon as possible.
Documentation should be maintained for all material that is destroyed. This
documentation will be needed later for legal and insurance purposes. A disposal
authorization record, as shown below, will dictate what records are beyond recovery
and thus were destroyed:
The following is a list of records which were destroyed and not recoverable by any
Record Title _________________
File Nos. ___________________
I hereby certify that the above named records have been destroyed as a
result of a disaster caused by hurricane.
If possible, check with your insurance carrier before you throw any records away.
Some carriers may have special provisions regarding the salvage of records.
Unfortunately, rodent or insect infestation may prevent the salvage of many records.