Common Sense Tips for Document Storage and Disaster Preparedness
Did you ever wonder why so many people have great common sense after a disaster strikes but for some reason common sense is in short supply before it happens?
Do you know how many warehouses that store active and inactive documents are located in areas that flood or are susceptible to hurricanes? The answer is way more than common sense would dictate.
What about storing documents that are important or vital to you or your business in a basement or ground floor of a building? Common sense would of course say this is not a good idea, yet we often find it to be the case even at nuclear generating stations. The news routinely reports the result as heart breaking and causing huge setbacks for individuals and companies who are not careful.
What if the documents you store are vital records; records, regardless of medium, which are essential to an organization, including government and or society in general, and crucial for the continuation of business functions both during and after a disaster? These records may be permanent or temporary, active or inactive, originals or copies. Would common sense prevail before a disaster or is it only clear after the documents are ruined?
Unfortunately, we know the answer. Common sense tends to be pushed aside until it is too late, often times due to a desire to save money.
Plans for duplicating documents, archiving on microfilm media, and storing in a common sense off-site location should all be part of document preservation and emergency preparedness for most organizations including corporations, hospitals, utilities and state and local government agencies.
Think of all the records that are essential to protecting life, property, rights and to restoring order following a disaster. What happens if and when any of the following are lost?
- Maps and floor plans to aid rescue workers
- Construction records to aid engineers assess damage to buildings, tunnels, levees
- Infrastructure records
- Medical records for safe and effective treatment of patients
- Plat maps, deeds and mortgage records for establishing ownership
- Bank records to verify financial assets
- State, county and city historical records
- Business and personal records
Disasters come in many forms and certainly not only natural ones. Consider the following when evaluating your level of preparation for the unknown and risk you are willing to take on the life of your documents. Do any of these apply to your organization?
- Reliance on a single technology. Are all your vital records on a disk or memory card, or in the “Cloud”? Are all your eggs in one basket? Disaster does not only strike paper. What about data loss on desktop computers or corporate servers?
- The pace at which technological obsolescence occurs and your ability to open records down the road.
- Inadequate analysis of risks. Have you considered natural and man-made disasters such as hackers, inadvertent human error, arson, terrorist attacks, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc? Are your business critical documents stored in a basement, flood zone?
- Management incompetence. (Not applicable to every organization, but it does happen.)
- Cutting Costs. Negating the need for an alternative record source in order to save money or use toward a new project.
In protecting your “vital records”, consider implementing common sense before it’s too late. Look for ways to reduce risk and provide a safety net for your critical records. Consider your current document preservation and storage technique and implement a new plan if necessary. Then if ever misfortune strikes, you will say after the fact “I’m sure glad we had the common sense to protect the information that is fundamental and crucial to us and the life of our organization.”