Off the Record: Fire

A vinyl record on a blue background with the words Off the Record and the TSLAC logo in white.

Welcome back to our occasional series “Off the Record,” a curated collection of articles we found interesting on a broad range of topics; some which are directly related to records management and others which might share common themes.

No, we didn’t write these articles—hence the name of this series, “Off the Record”— but, fortunately, we didn’t need to in order to share the knowledge with our subscribers.

Maybe its the summer heat, but recently we found ourselves thinking about one of the main dangers to records: fire. Below are articles related to fire suppression, emerging technology for wildfire detection, and a cautionary tale from the National Archives and Records Administration.

Fire Suppression for Records and Archives – New York State Archives

Cardboard boxes full of records on the second floor of the State Records Center at TSLAC.

This article from the New York State Archives provides excellent information and tips for designing or choosing a new storage facility or evaluating your current one. It goes over options for active fire protection, such as sprinkler or mist systems, and passive fire protection, such as segregating your collection with fire-resistant walls and using fire-resistant storage cabinets. One thing I learned from this article is that because they are made of plastic, digital storage media will be damaged by fire more quickly and easily than paper.

-Katherine Hoffman

Cal Fire Test AI Tech in Wildfire Detection System – Government Technology

A fire watch tower on a rocky cliff.

When discussing the protection of essential or long-term retention records, you must address external threats like fire. We are familiar with using fire-resistant materials or ensuring our storage space has a functioning sprinkler system. What about using Artificial Intelligence (AI) for fire response? By adding AI to their camera lookouts, Cal Fire has creatively used the emerging technology to cut down response times should a wildfire begin. The improved response times means faster protection for nearby buildings or structures where records may be stored.

-Raul Gonzalez

National Personnel Records Center Fire – National Archives and Records Administration

Charred records from the National Personnel Records Center.

Fifty years ago, a fire broke out in the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, MO and destroyed approximately 16-18 million Official Military Personnel Files. The event was one of the worst catastrophes to affect government records. In the aftermath, records personnel have worked to salvage and recreate the records, which are necessary for veterans to have access to in order to claim benefits. Read more at the link about the ongoing efforts to work with the damaged records and the changes to policies and procedures made going forward.

-Erica Wilson-Lang

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