Emergency Preparedness for Local Governments

It is that time of the year again: hurricane season started on June 1 and runs through November 30. Historically, the peak threat for the Texas coast is in August and September. However, hurricanes have struck the Texas coast during every month of hurricane season. Additionally, due to COVID-19, your agency may be reevaluating your emergency plan(s) concerning your records management functions.

The first step is to identify and protect your essential records, but we will assume that you have already done this. This blog is not meant to be an exhaustive description of creating an emergency preparedness plan, but to provide tips and guidance on how you can ensure your records are stored and managed properly in thirty minutes or less. Due to COVID-19, some of you may not be working in the office as often as usual. Therefore, it may be especially important to conduct a routine check of your records.  

Below are some questions and things to look for in order to make sure your records are stored properly:

  • Are your storage areas clean, well lit, dry, and free of mold?
  • Locate and check drains for proper functioning.
  • Inspect sprinkler systems and pipes for leaks.
  • Is there any evidence of animal or insect invasion? Inspect building to identify and block points of entry for animals and insects.
  • Are your permanent records stored off the floor, so they stay dry during potential flooding? Four to six inches off the floor is optimal.
  • If you store records in a basement, are your vital or essential records on an upper shelf?
  • Do your regularly conduct disposition of records based on your adopted schedules? This includes transfer to off-site long-term storage and approved destruction.
  • Do you have reliable backups of your electronic records stored offsite?

Local Government Bulletin F outlines minimum and enhanced storage standards for records of permanent value and certain court documents. The minimum standards offer protection from fire, water, steam, structural collapse, unauthorized access, theft, and other similar hazards, and prevents exposing records to direct sunlight. See Section 7.165 for a list of optional enhanced storage conditions for permanent records. While these conditions are not required, they do help ensure the safety and accessibility of your permanent records.

Unfortunately, emergency preparedness cannot prevent every disaster. If some of your documents are destroyed due to an emergency event, we have guidelines on how to document the premature destruction of local government records.

Bibliography

Ann Marie Przybyla and Geof Huth. (2004). Preparing for the Worst: Managing Records Disasters. State Archives Publication 82. http://www.archives.nysed.gov/common/archives/files/mr_pub82.pdf.

University of Washington Records Management Services. (n.d.). Disaster Prevention. https://finance.uw.edu/recmgt/disaster-prevention.

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