You should strive to have copies of all vital records backed-up in digital format and physically stored safely off-site.

If vital records are damaged it is important to have a process in place and a trusted vendor that can jump in and help save them. A good professional mitigation partner is your best bet.

Here are some tips and resources on salvaging moldy and contaminated vital documents:

Tip – DO NOT store vital records in the basement. You might be surprised how often they wind up in the basement.

Tip – Always ask process owners where the originals are stored. You might be surprised and perhaps dismayed.

Moldy Documents:

Tip – If documents are soaking wet for a long period – days, weeks, they will likely mold. If it is humid that will compress the time-frame for mold to begin forming.

Tip – Air drying wet documents is effective for small amounts of documents prior to mold forming.

Tip – Freezing wet documents can stop mold growth.

Tip – After freezing wet document they should then be vacuum freeze dried. Doing this will remove the frozen water so it cannot go through the liquid phase. It is the a very effective way to dry frozen documents.

Tip – It is important to understand that freezing does not kill mold. It suspends mold growth if the documents are frozen. So, moldy documents still must be treated after freezing and vacuum freeze drying is finished. Any leftover mold should be cleaned off in a separate step by a vendor wearing protective gear.

Tip – Drying methods not recommended for documents include: thermal, desiccant, vacuum thermal drying or de-humidification. Using these will harm the documents.

Contaminated Documents:

Tip – Documents can be contaminated by the contents of the water that impacted them.

Tip – Documents soaked in muddy water still must be dried to remove residue on them, possibly in addition to the mold, after freeze and vacuum drying are complete.

Tip – If the water that impacted the documents has, or might have, biological contaminants then you must sterilize the documents. Do not do this yourself. For safety, your vendor should do this, not your team.

Tip – Two sterilization methods your vendor might consider using are: fumigation with ethylene oxide, and gamma irradiation. Again, let you vendor advise you on sterilization.


I highly recommend you speak with vendors BEFORE a disruptive event. Understand their capabilities. Speak with some of their current clients. Perform your due diligence, and as always (I know I am preaching to the choir, please forgive me) have redundant vendors just in case the primary vendor is not available.