I can almost bet that there are vital records lurking in cabinets in private and public organizations that would cause an impact if they were not available during a disruptive event. There may even be some important documents ‘safely tucked away’ in that damp, dusty basement that floods every so often.

Act Now – Before it is too late!

Safely storing and/or imaging vital records is low hanging fruit. It is a quick win with only and upside and no downside. The risk of damaged or lost vital records can easily be mitigated nowadays. The excuse that they are too expensive to scan and image or there is not enough disk storage is ‘old school’ thinking. You can probably store thousands of your documents on a thumb drive – but please do not do that to prove me right. It is too risky! We will discuss thumb/USB drive risks as well as many other technology related risks in the cyber posts.

Carefully and thoroughly gather vital record information during the planning process. I have seen it done during the BIA or plan development stages. Your choice.  I prefer to doing it during the BIA dependency analysis. If you happen to join an organization after the BIA and plans were developed and vital records were not included or included as an afterthought, I suggest you make vital records a separate in-depth analysis project. Otherwise, if there were a fire or flood and critical documents were overlooked, guess whose butt will be on the line.

If you can scan paper docs into digital format and store them on your intranet or your secure cloud environment you will save yourself a lot of headaches. Notice I said – secure cloud environment – NOT a personal cloud drive account. Personal cloud storage accounts pose a huge risk for organizations. I discuss that in the risk posts on Ultimate Business Continuity. It is one of my top risk factors for organizations.

If your organization has a records information management (RIM) program in place, that will be of great value to you. There may be policies and procedures for properly maintaining critical records. Also, keep in mind it is critical to understand when records should no longer be kept. Speak with the RIM team and your legal staff for more information.

If you do not have a RIM program in place I see a great opportunity for you to bring tremendous value to your organization by leading the vital record protection and compliance projects. Discuss it with management. If they like the idea, which they will, volunteer to participate in the creation of an enterprise RIM program. Partner with HR, legal and any other organizational partners that can help make this happen asap.

In case your vital documents are damaged I also included a post in the crisis management section of on Ultimate Business Continuity that discusses salvaging damaged vital records.

I suggest you reach out to process owners to understand your vital records vulnerabilities before a flood or fire! I have used the email below with good results. You can modify it for your own use.

Subject: Vital Records Protection and Compliance

Dear <<process owner name here>>,

Imagine you do not have access to your office, whether it is caused by a fire, flood, gas leak or any other scenario that could impact your office.  Take a minute to look around:

  • Are there any critical documents you will need to continue your process that are in your office file cabinet and not backed up in digital format?
  • Are there any paper or cardboard forms or checks that you would need to continue to do your work?
  • Are there any paper documents in the basement? If so, they may be at risk. A flood or fire can destroy them.

If you have any questions, please contact me as soon as possible so we can discuss possibly storing these critical documents off-site and in digital format. You will then have access to them from any recovery site.

Thank you!

<<your name and contact information>>