Beat the heat: Plan ahead and save your information from disaster


It seems like reports of fires in the Birmingham area have been piling up lately. Just this week, an 18 wheeler burst into flames at a gas station on Finley Blvd. Luckily, no injuries were reported and some of the trailer’s contents (pumpkins) were salvageable. It may have you wondering, what happens if your business is the next to go up in smoke? Insurance should cover most of the damage and replace what was lost. But if you are storing your vital records or data backups in-house, you may be facing a bigger issue than scorched pumpkins.

In the wake of a fire or other disaster, vital records are often your company’s first line of defense. Vital records document legal and financial rights, supporting documents are necessary for insurance claims and information accessibility is critical for continuing daily business. There is no doubt that losing paper records or stored data can be additionally devastating in the case of such a disaster.

If you think your organization is out of reach, think again. Consider five of the most common non-residential building fire locations: churches, schools, storage facilities, stores and office buildings. All five of these locations produce and rely on records daily and all five have been unable to find immunity from fires. Whether it is a spark from old wiring in a church building, an unattended storage unit that falls prey to arson, or an office building whose electrical malfunction causes a fire, the occurrences are unexpected and the damage can be detrimental to an organization.

In the most recent three-year study, an estimated 86,500 nonresidential building fires were reported in the United States yearly. These fires total $2.6 billion in property loss. Office buildings and storage facilities account for 28.5% and 17% of the annual fire-related dollar loss respectively.

The National Archives and Records Administration recognizes the risk of disaster and the necessity of access to information when one strikes. With this motive, the US NARA has published its Disaster Mitigation and Recovery guide. Within, they prioritize the documents that must be protected from potential risk and detail NARA’s recommendations for storing them. This list provides an outline that can be applied to any organization.

Records needed to protect rights of the federal government include:

  • Accounts-receivable records
  • Social security records
  • Payroll records
  • Retirement records
  • Insurance records
  • Any records relating to contracts, entitlement, leases, or obligations whose loss would pose a significant risk to the legal and financial rights of the Federal Government or persons directly affected by its actions
  • System documentation for any electronic information systems designated as records needed to protect rights.

Storing Paper records:

Special protective measures for vital records may include using fire-rated filing equipment for storage; constructing onsite vaults; transferring records to offsite storage; duplicating the records at the time of their creation, such as computer “backup” tapes, using existing duplicates as vital record copies; or microfilming vital records.


Storing data:

These “special records” require specific environmental conditions and careful handling throughout their life cycle to ensure their preservation. Agencies must maintain temperature and humidity controls for special records such as photographs and negatives, microforms, audio and video tapes and disks, and electronic tapes and disks.

Most commercial record centers can provide all of these protective measures. Whether it is offsite storage, fire-rated facilities, document scanning, data backup, or climate controlled vaults it is worth the investment to find a records center that can provide protection of your vital information. For more information on fire-rated facilities, visit Secure Media Vaults.