Murphy’s Law. Simply stated: if anything can go wrong, it will. In the world of emergency preparedness, it’s not a matter of if something goes wrong but when. You may have noticed some recent incidents around the country involving flooding, power outages, and tornadoes. Once health and safety issues have been handled, what happens to organizations’ records in these disasters? What if severe storms caused the river near your office to swell and flood your records warehouse or office? What if that same storm knocked the power out in your town or area for several hours or longer, keeping you from accessing those electronic records on your computer or causing you to lose that information? And what if that or a different storm produced a tornado that blew away your records in your cabinet?
The week of May 25-31 is FEMA‘s Hurricane Preparedness Week for Texas and Louisiana as the Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1. Have you taken appropriate measures? Have you backed up your records, especially those you’ve deemed as essential or vital (aka mission-critical/business-critical) or those with permanent retention? Are they stored in more than one location? Do your paper records make direct contact with the floor? Are they being stored in a climate-controlled facility? It may be time to consider some safer alternatives.
Yes, there are many questions to ask yourself and your staff. These and other questions should be addressed as part of a thorough risk assessment of your building or work site. Consider conducting a site survey, taking a close look at the interior and exterior of your building(s) where your records are located, and look for present or possible hazards and risks to your records. Essential/vital records should be backed up and stored off-site. If those records are electronic, they must be backed up and stored off-site with any software or documentation needed to access and read the records.
And what about permanent records? Have you seen the new storage standards for historic court records and permanent records that become effective April 2015, a publication called Bulletin F? Though these standards are directed at local governments, state agencies may find the standards useful, particularly Section 7.165 (Optimal Enhanced Storage Conditions for Permanent Records).
Additionally, if some of your records meet an untimely demise, it would be good to know how to recover and salvage them. We will be partnering with Sarah Norris, TSLAC Conservator, on May 22 at 10:00 CST, to present Disaster Recovery and Salvage for Government Records, a webinar that will focus primarily on damage caused by water, mold, and insects. Don’t wait until an emergency occurs to start thinking about emergency preparedness. Don’t wait until Mr. Murphy shows up. Think and plan ahead and be prepared. You’ll be glad you did. And so will your records.