All University records, regardless of condition, are covered by the University of Florida’s General Records Schedule and applicable procedures. Any University records that are lost or deemed unrecoverable must be documented appropriately – more on this process below. If you have any questions or need to discuss University records in a vulnerable location, please contact the University Records Manager as soon as possible.
What can I do to prepare?
If you haven’t already, you can fill out a Departmental Emergency Plan with the addition of Appendix C. UF’s Office of Emergency Management provides these resources to help offices better prepare for disaster response. Appendix C includes a section for vital records and databases, and is a helpful tool to quickly identify key information during disaster recovery efforts. Any records or data required to resume normal business operations following a disaster are considered vital. You may also have records identified as permanent by the General Records Schedule or historically relevant by the University Archivist. These records should also be identified and documented.
In the event your records are damaged, the more documentation you have about your records the better. Not only should you know the exact locations of offices, buildings, or storage facilities housing your records, but you should have an inventory of what records are stored at each location. For electronic records, you should document where records and/or data is physically stored and how to access back-up copies of the information.
What can damage a record?
There are a lot of environmental factors that cause damage to records, including some that may not be immediately obvious. Here are a few of the big ones:
- Pests & Rodents: Creepy crawlies are a huge threat to paper records. Not only do they eat the paper, but they also leave behind a lot of other gross stuff. This occurs when records are kept in sheds, barns, or other storage areas with little to no environmental control.
- Water: Between hurricanes and leaky pipes, water poses a huge threat to both paper and electronic records. It takes roughly 72 hours for mold to start growing, which means the sooner you act the better. If waterlogged boxes or records are left untreated the mold can become a dangerous health risk.
- Fire & Smoke: This might seem obvious, but it’s still a very real threat to records (and data). In the 1980s, Johnson Hall erupted into flames and led to the destruction of original financial records. Although the University was able to recreate the data through other offices, they still needed to know what records to recreate. (That’s where a file plan comes in handy!)
I have damaged records – what now?
1. Notify the University Records Manager as soon as you find the damage. The sooner the records are evaluated the better.
2. Gather relevant documentation – like your office file plan or Departmental Emergency Plan. These documents will not only lessen confusion, but it will also help staff establish a records recovery response plan.
3. Locate and/or identify someone in your office who can make decisions regarding your records. This is especially important if you do not have documentation regarding your records.
4. Document the damage as required by the University Records Manager. You will need to fill out a Records Disposition Request and a Damaged Records Report. The State of Florida also recommends that you document the damaged records through photographic evidence – you will be instructed to do this if at all possible. The University Records Manager will work with you to identify other offices or key personnel who should also be notified of the damaged records.