Protecting vital records in hurricane season

While most organizations and
individuals have a hurricane plan with strategies designed to protect both
people and property during the development or review of a plan it’s worth
considering that:

In addition to people and property,
information is a vital asset.

Disaster preparedness is about more
than hurricanes.

Sonya Sherman of Ignition said the
first step to ensuring records are properly protected is to identify vital
records and critical systems.

“For businesses, these include
records which establish your legal and financial position, and those that
document the rights and entitlements of your investors, staff and customers,”
said Ms. Sherman.

“Remember to include those records
that help you operate during and after a disaster, such as plans, procedures
and key contact details. Duplicates, reference materials, information that can
be easily reconstructed or obtained from another source, should not be
considered among your vital records.”

The second step is to ensure vital
records are easy to recognize.

“For both physical and electronic
records, this could involve listing them, keeping them in separate storage or
using “flags” – like coloured folders and labels, or metadata fields that mark
the records as vital,” said Ms Sherman. This enables vital records to be
prioritised for backup, relocation or recovery in the event of a disaster.

The third step is to put in place
appropriate strategies to protect your vital records.

“Specific techniques will vary, depending
on the format of the records and the expected hazards as described below,” said
Ms Sherman.

“Most importantly: formalize your
plan and keep it up to date; assign responsibilities; practice, practice,
practice your procedures!”

Ms Sherman noted that companies
should prepare for all types of things that can go wrong in order to protect
their records, whether it is hurricanes, water leaks, human error, computer
viruses or hackers, even employee sabotage.

She advised ensuring storage
conditions take account of security requirements, and also the length of time
records need to be retained for legal and business purposes.

“This will allow you to undertake a
cost-benefit analysis of on-site/off-site/online/offline storage, and select
suitable storage media to enable ongoing maintenance of the records for that
period of time,” she said.

“Regular and systematic disposal of
records is one of the most effective ways to reduce the likelihood of a
man-made disaster,” continued Ms Sherman.

“Fewer records are easier to store,
manage and protect.”

She advised using an existing
hurricane plan as your starting point, and ensuring the plan includes steps to
adequately protect vital records and critical information systems as well as
safeguards for people and property.

“Review the plan and consider other
risks to your records, building up to a comprehensive strategy for business
continuity and disaster recovery,” she said.

“Protecting your vital records can
help to minimize the risks and losses associated with a disaster, and quickly
return you to business (or life) as usual.”