“Destroy in Office”: Not As Scary As It May Sound

A shiver runs down the spine of many state agency records officers when they read those three dreaded words “destroy in office” among their retention schedule dispositions.  These individuals’ thoughts are clouded by images of sitting for hours in a hot room, painstakingly shredding thousands of pages of material.  While this is an acceptable form of destruction, it is certainly not the only or even the most convenient, method of record eradication.

Accessing the Government Records website (http://www.records.ncdcr.gov/), one can find “Guidelines for Public Records” in the side menu.  At the end of this entry, I have included a walk through to explain in detail how to access the relevant chapter of the administrative code, 07 NCAC 04M .0510, which contains the “Definition of Destruction”, available in html, PDF, or Doc formats.  A brief description of this document gives us varying, and much more fun, alternatives to shredding records in office, including dissolving them in vats of acid!  In case you don’t happen to have any of those lying around, burning, burying, or selling them as waste paper are all acceptable methods, just so long as it completely eliminates any information which may potentially be gleaned from the records in question, or in the case of selling them as waste paper, the buyer agrees not to resell them as documents or records.  One particular example is selling them to factories to be “pulped” for use as toilet paper or paper towels.

Additionally, although not explicitly stated in the code, it is perfectly acceptable (and in many cases, more practical) to hire vendors to perform any of the above listed methods of destruction.  If the information contained in your documents is highly sensitive material, in certain situations many vendors will allow a representative from the agency to accompany them to supervise the destruction of the records.  Hopefully this has helped to alleviate some of the fears associated with the in-office destruction of records; it’s not as scary as it sounds, folks!

Website: http://www.records.ncdcr.gov/

Guidelines for Public Records: http://www.records.ncdcr.gov/guidelines.htm

North Carolina Administrative Code: http://reports.oah.state.nc.us/ncac.asp

Cultural Resources: http://reports.oah.state.nc.us/ncac.asp?folderName=\Title%2007%20-%20Cultural%20Resources

Archives and History: http://reports.oah.state.nc.us/ncac.asp?folderName=\Title%2007%20-%20Cultural%20Resources\Chapter%2004%20-%20Archives%20and%20History

Definition of Destruction: http://reports.oah.state.nc.us/ncac/title%2007%20-%20cultural%20resources/chapter%2004%20-%20archives%20and%20history/subchapter%20m/07%20ncac%2004m%20.0510.html