Records Management News: Hurricane Season

Water damaged records

Safeguarding Your Records in Weather Emergencies

It is important to be prepared for weather emergencies during hurricane season, and Records Management Services offers some tips on how to protect office files from the effects of hurricanes and other unexpected events.

Records disasters are not always predictable – they can also appear as quiet threats such as mold, water seepage in a once dry basement, theft, quickly progressing technology, and insufficient control of record inventory.  Emergency preparation is critical. This includes careful consideration of where records are stored (paper, electronic, audio, video), assessing the environment for potential problems, and creating a plan of action for reducing those threats.

Here are some tips on how to minimize a disaster:

1. Do a Risk Assessment site survey
A Risk Assessment Survey helps assess office storage locations and environments.  A survey provides information on where office records are kept, their general condition, and their level of risk for damage or destruction. Records Management Services has a risk assessment worksheet available.

2. Pinpoint vital records
Vital records are records essential to continuing business-crucial functions both during and after a disaster.  By identifying vital records, an office will still be able to function after a disaster, thus reducing stress, lost time and money.

3. Plan for electronic records preservation
Offices maintain electronic records considered vital to everyday office functions.  They often contain personal information about staff and are not replicated elsewhere at Harvard.  Disasters with electronic records commonly occur in the form of damaged hard drives that are not backed up.

4. Know the LEMT contact
Each school and department has a Local Emergency Management Team (LEMT). The LEMT is called upon in all emergency situations to provide local leadership and implement University policies when necessary.  For more information about the Harvard Local Emergency Management Team and Harvard Emergency Management Resources, go to

5. Write an emergency plan of action
An emergency plan of action should include a list of responsibilities, emergency instructions and contacts, priorities for salvaging material, and a list of service providers who specialize in disaster recovery.   Harvard Library Preservation Services has some tips for creating an Emergency Preparedness Plan.

6. Salvage records after a disaster
Even with a prevention plan in place, it is not always possible to prevent damage to records during an emergency. Having a recovery plan will help create a timely, cost-effective response.  Records Management Services working with the Library Collections Emergency Team can help with some decisions about damaged records.