Uphold the Law
As we all know, courthouses provide facilities for the judicial branch of government including office space for officers of the court and areas for public meetings, trials and related legal operations. But what you may not have known is that even something as simple as the design of the courthouse can be a risk.
Recently in San Diego, the County Sheriff’s Department had an issue with the courthouse’s design in concerns with safely moving prisoners in and out of the building and how quickly they can respond to any courtroom emergencies. This is just one example of the exposures courthouses face today.
Here are some other examples of exposures and how to mitigate those risks:
- Property exposure due to fire comes primarily from wiring. Most courthouses are older and have been remodeled extensively to handle additional electrical loads from computers and sound systems.
- All electrical wiring must be up to code. Valuation concerns and the ability to rebuild with like construction and quality may pose significant problems in those buildings that have a unique architectural design.
- Courthouses may be a target for criminal activity, political activists or for terrorists. Adequate security is required, along with disaster recovery plans, to continue operations in the event of a large loss.
- Crime exposure is from public officials’ dishonesty, employee dishonesty and money and securities.
- Background checks, including criminal history, must be completed on all employees. Monies received from fees, fines, and penalties must be properly received and disbursed.
- There must be annual independent audits. All monies collected must be deposited on a regular basis and no money should be left on the premises overnight. If the courthouse has an office to collect fees, fines and penalties, there may be an exposure to hold up.
- Inland marine exposures include audio/visual equipment, computers, fine arts and valuable papers and records.
- Duplicates of all files should be stored at an off-site facility for easy retrieval in the event of loss. Fine arts such as statuary and paintings, artifacts, historical documents, rare or historical books and manuscripts all pose significant risk management concerns as they may be one-of-a-kind and irreplaceable.
- Premises liability exposure is high due to the public’s access to the building and the potential for volatility in high-profile court cases.
- If tours are given, exposures increase significantly. Legislation and judicial decisions have eroded governmental immunity protection in most states. Public and life safety code compliance is very important. Good housekeeping is critical to preventing trips, slips and falls. Adequate lighting, marked exits and egress are mandatory. Steps must have rails, be well-lit, marked and in good maintenance and repair.
- Security inside the facility, as well as outside areas, including owned parking areas, needs to be carefully implemented and monitored. Weapons check should be conducted. An evacuation plan must be in place.
- Automobile exposures can be high if vehicles are used to transport public officials, guests, jurors, prisoners and/or visitors.
- MVRs must be ordered regularly on all drivers. Training and prior record of drivers, as well as condition and maintenance of vehicles, are the primary items to consider.
- Workers’ compensation exposures are varied, from office workers to volunteers, janitorial, building or yard maintenance workers, repair personnel and drivers.
- Some operations expose workers to back injury, hernia, slips, falls, strains or sprains. Workers may be exposed to skin or lung irritants, infectious disease or occupational injury. Appropriate safety equipment may be required for some operations. Court bailiffs are subject to the same injuries as other police officers because they maintain the order in the court. They must be trained to deal with unruly visitors or prisoners.
For more information on these exposures and risk management practices for your municipality, chat with a member of the ‘A’ Team!
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