For the first time since 2004, no nasty tropical system, storm, or hurricane will appear in the Atlantic during May and June, according to AccuWeather.com, leaving North Carolina’s public records high and dry. Now, when the weather is sunny and beautiful, is the calm moment to consider preparation for a public records disaster.
There are 4 steps to preparation. First, inventory your office’s essential records. Essential records are those records necessary for emergency response; resumption and continuation of operations after a disaster; preservation of your office’s legal, financial, and functional status; protection of the rights of your citizens; and the preservation of your community’s history and culture.
Second, conduct a risk analysis. List the possible disasters — widespread (hurricanes, flooding, tornadoes) and internal (leaking pipe, fire, burglary) — that could damage your records. Assign a probability to each, and rank them in descending order of likelihood.
Third, starting with the most likely emergency and working down the list, develop mitigation strategies for each. A strategy can be preventive, i.e., getting that leaking pipe repaired or cutting down that old oak tree hovering over the office, or protective, i.e., duplicating essential records onto microfilm and storing that microfilm in a secure, off-site location.
Finally, write, distribute, and promote a Records Emergency Action Plan. The Plan contains the essential records inventory compiled in the first step and an emergency communication plan, with contact information for all staff. Add contact information for emergency officials in your area and any contracted recovery vendors, along with the actual contracts.
Great online resources for disaster preparedness are listed here; some additional resources for the creation of a Records Emergency Action Plan are:
So, before your smartphones’ weather alarms ring, buzz, or beep, use these days of sunshine to prepare for the preservation of your public records.