Make Your Records Safe Before Disaster Strikes

Are You Ready for the Worst-Case Scenario?

As it took more than 120 priceless lives, Superstorm Sandy also caused an estimated $70 billion in property damage as it ripped through the East Coast in October 2012. Recovery will take years and involve much more than new construction; many businesses lost records that were crucial to their operations. Indeed, at one point the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission felt obliged to exempt some businesses from certain reporting requirements because of the resulting damage.

When it comes to protecting vital records from disaster, most businesses are better prepared than individuals. Only about 1 percent of American families have important documents safely stored, according to government estimates. However, the impact of lost business records can be much worse. Losing vital information can cripple an entire company, affecting owners, employees, customers, suppliers — even entire communities.

The time to prepare for the worst-case scenario is now. Here’s what to do:

  • Have a solid records management program — and follow it. According to ARMA International, 93 percent of Fortune 1000 corporations have records and information management policies — but only 38 percent adhere to them. Small businesses are even more at risk, with some companies having no policy at all. If a disaster plan for vital records is like a life raft, good records management is the cruise liner it supports. Both need to be shipshape before disaster strikes.
  • Identify vital records. These are records that are essential to running your organization. They might include financial records, customer account information, regulatory filings and legal documents (e.g., permits, articles of incorporation, tax forms, patent and trademark applications , and so on). Other records to consider are deeds and titles, audit files, insurance forms, employee personnel documents and the like. You must make your own list: Vital records will vary from organization to organization.
  • Know where those records are — and determine whether that’s the right place. This is another reason why it is so important to have good records management to begin with. Once you’ve identified what’s vital, you need to know where those files are kept, how they are stored and whether they are in the safest place. Ask yourself: “Are my records adequately protected?” “Can they be retrieved if tragedy strikes?” If the answer is “no,” take immediate steps to protect these documents. Also, consider making backup copies of vital records and storing them at a different location, at least 50 miles from the originals. Whether records and backups are kept in-house or with a trusted third party, they need to be quickly accessible should the need arise.
  • Document and inform. Create a master list of vital records, including precise file identification and location, and information about how to access records, who is authorized for retrieval and contact information. Make sure the appropriate people in the organization have a copy of this master list securely stored. Update it at least once each year, and destroy any outdated copies.

Partnering with a trustworthy RIM provider is a cost-effective way of ensuring vital information assets are protected. No one wants to think about worst-case scenarios. But planning for disaster now will minimize the impact should the unthinkable occur — and put your organization ahead of those that don’t.

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Abraxas has comprehensive plans and tested protective systems in place to safeguard vital records. We provide clients with tailored records and information management solutions, delivering the business intelligence that matters most — and we do it more efficiently and reliably than anyone else, particularly in highly regulated industries. To learn more, email solutions@abraxasworldwide.com or call us: 866.535.0016 (toll-free) or 269.226.0016.