How are my facility’s records maintained?

You probably already have a file system in place to store important documents and records. But how secure are these files in the event of a disaster? Think about your “mission critical” files, such as

  • Private information on the youth you serve. These files might include medical records, emergency contact information, prescriptions, and legal documents such as birth certificates and social security cards.
  • Insurance information. Policies covering the facility, staff, and vehicles
  • Registration information. For facility vehicles. 
  • Staff information. Contracts, contact information, schedules, and so on 
  • Provider contracts. Contracts with outside providers and partnership agreements with facilities that have agreed to provide transportation or shelter in the event of an evacuation (see “What access to transportation do I have?” on page 29 and “Where would I go during an evacuation?” on page 34 for more information). 
  • Financial information. Bank accounts, credit card accounts, annual budgets, payroll records.

Chances are, you keep most of these documents on paper. Ideally, though, these critical documents will be stored in both paper and electronic formats. This redundancy can help ensure that key documents survive any disaster scenario, including one in which the facility itself is destroyed, such as a fire or tornado. You can turn any paper document into an electronic file by using an electronic scanner, available widely and at very low cost.

Whether your facility’s records are stored on paper or as electronic documents, you must carefully consider how to keep them safe.

Paper documents

Security and privacy are important considerations when storing paper documents, particularly when it comes to young people’s personal or medical records. But you also need to be concerned with how safe these (and other) critical documents would be in the event of a disaster.

All original documents that you keep on site, particularly those of a legal or financial nature, should be stored in a locking, fire- and water-proof container.

If, for ease of access, you keep documents of this sort in regular (locking) file cabinets, they should be duplicates. You might also consider storing original copies of critical documents in an offsite, secure location, such as a bank’s safe deposit box. In addition, duplicate paper documents as electronic files as soon as possible, both to increase their redundancy (and, therefore, security) and make them more easily transportable in the event of an evacuation.

Electronic documents

Electronic documents have many advantages over paper documents, particularly when you consider the space required to store them and the ease involved in duplicating them for backup. While legitimate security concerns do exist when it comes to electronic files, these risks do not outweigh the benefits of electronic storage.

Most computer users store electronic documents on their computer’s hard drive. This is acceptable as long as the drive is password-protected, with access to sensitive files limited only to trusted staff. However, electronic documents stored on a computer’s hard drive are not secure from disaster. If the computer is destroyed, the files are lost as well.

To avoid that possibility, back up your electronic documents to other storage devices—CD-ROMs, flash drives, or floppy disks. Store these backup files in the same sort of container where you store original copies of paper documents—a fire- and water-proof safe, for example, or a bank’s safe deposit box. Finally, schedule a regular time to save the most current version of these documents so that your backup files are always up to date.

An even better solution than external storage devices, though, is network storage. Storing your electronic documents on a network, either a local network or the Internet, means that your files will not be affected should some disaster befall your computer. Network file storage also allows you to access your files from anywhere by logging onto the network, which can be very useful in the event of an evacuation.

In the best-case scenario, you should protect your electronic files by using both a storage device and network storage. Redundancy is one of the best ways to ensure that critical information and records remain secure even in the face of disaster.

Moving on: Records checklist

  • Ensure that originals of all legal and financial paper documents are stored in a secure, fire- and water-proof location (for example, a safe or bank safe deposit box). 
  • Create electronic versions of all paper documents. 
  • Backup all electronic documents onto a storage device, such as a CD-ROM, flash drive, or floppy disk; store these backup files with the original copies of paper documents. 
  • Move all electronic files to a network drive (either a local network or the Internet) to enable remote access in the event of an emergency evacuation. 
  • Create a schedule for regular file backups to ensure that your electronic backup files are current.
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