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10-17-07 - Texas State Library and Archives Commission to develop statewide disaster preparedness training through FEMA-funded national initiative
 

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October 17, 2007
Texas State Library and Archives Commission to develop statewide disaster preparedness training through FEMA-funded national initiative

Austin – State agencies and local governments throughout Texas will be better prepared for emergencies thanks to $2.6 million recently awarded to the national Council of State Archivists (CoSA) by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The funding for the national initiative will enable the Texas State Library and Archives Commission to provide critical training and services to state and local government agencies throughout Texas.

When state and local governments are faced with natural or manmade disasters, certain records help them respond to and recover from the emergency. The Intergovernmental Preparedness for Essential Records (IPER) project will develop workshops nationwide designed to teach state and local government officials and employees how to identify and protect their most essential records and recover those damaged by disasters. According to Vicki Walch, Executive Director of CoSA, the need for such a program became apparent in 2005, during the organization’s response to Hurricane Katrina. “Archivists discovered that records were not identified as an asset of government in the National Response Plan,” said Walch. “We knew from experience that whether a disaster is a localized fire or a widespread terrorist attack, the governments that have good records management in place are best prepared to respond to and recover from an emergency.”

The benefit to Texas will be immense, according to Dr. Michael Heskett, Texas state records administrator and director of the State and Local Records Management division of the State Library and Archives. “Texas is prone to hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, wildfires, and much else, and any one of these threaten lives and can destroy the history of a community. Texas communities are in great need of training to plan and prepare for disasters that would threaten their vital records. A post-Rita survey of East and Southeast Texas indicated that half of the government entities surveyed did not have a Disaster Recovery and Preparedness Plan in place when the storm hit.”

The IPER initiative will develop a national curriculum and create Web-based seminars, which will be customized to meet specific needs and concerns at the state and local levels. A team from Texas will add guidance and resources specific to our state and then deliver the training to state and local government agencies statewide. The Texas State Library and Archives Commission will coordinate the Texas team, which will include representatives from the Governor’s Emergency Management Division, the Department of Information Resources, and local governments. The regional offices of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Denton will actively participate as well.

Outlining the impact the program will have, Rex Wamsley, director of FEMA’s national Continuity of Operations Division, noted that the “development of common training for use in each of the states will enhance the potential for inter-governmental cooperation throughout the nation. FEMA’s national and regional offices have been working actively with the National Archives and state archives for the last two years to protect essential records. We want to ensure that governments at all levels can recover and resume operations quickly following a natural disaster or other emergency. Records are key to that process. The IPER project will allow us to reach into every county, city, and village nationwide, giving officials the information they need to protect essential records in time of crisis.”

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission, in addition to its support of Texas libraries, administers the State Archives and provides records management assistance to state agencies and local governments in Texas. The IPER project training will be available to Texas state agencies and local governments by 2010.

Photos relevant to the Intergovernmental Preparedness for Essential Records (IPER) project

Contact the Public Information Office
512-463-5514

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