Issued: 13 June 2012
Recordkeeping Advices issued by the State Archivist provide advice on the
management of records of State and local government organizations
and support or explain recordkeeping requirements set out in formal
State records guidelines.
The purpose of this Advice is to provide guidance in relation to your agency's preparedness for, and recovery from natural and man-made disasters.
This Advice describes the process for drawing up a Disaster Preparedness Plan for protecting and recovering records held by your agency. In particular it enables agencies to assess and prioritise what are their vital records and based on this create a plan that can be easily reviewed and updated.
The Disaster Preparedness Plan should complement and be integrated with other emergency plans relevant to your agency. In particular, most agencies will have plans authorised for dealing with building security, fire precautions, fire extinguishing systems, electricity, gas, water, chemical hazards, structural requirements, first aid and data protection.
In 1996 Standards Australia released Australian Standard AS 4390-1996: Records Management. This Standard sets out the responsibilities and strategies of high-quality records management systems, including action relating to disaster management and preparedness. Standards Australia has since released Handbook HB221:2004 Business Continuity Management and Handbook HB292:2006 A Practitioners Guide to Business Continuity Management, both of which are also recommended reading.
There are a variety of definitions for disasters with some distinguishing disasters from emergencies. The definition of a minor disaster is 'that although affected, the agency is still able to open for business'. The definition of a major disaster is 'an event that makes it necessary for the agency to cease operation while the situation is rectified'.
Disasters affecting records may include:
Disasters may also be caused by storage conditions that are unsuitable for the media stored, and by the natural decay of materials.
The identification and assessment of risk is the first stage in developing effective counter disaster management strategies for your agency's records and recordkeeping systems.
The recommended methodology is based on the Australian/New Zealand Standard AS 4360-1999, Risk Management and involves the following:
Based on your assessment, priorities can now be determined.
Vital records are those deemed essential to reconstruct and continue operations of the agency and to protect its organisational, legal and financial interests.
Only a small proportion of an agency's records are vital records. Most permanent records identified under an approved Retention and Disposal Schedule are vital records. However, a vital record is not necessarily one with long-term value; it may only have short term value. Other vital records may include:
It is essential that your agency's computer system programs are backed up on a regular basis. Your ITS section should be able to provide you with its back-up schedule for inclusion in your plan. However, if your ITS section is not on site it may not be necessary to include this information in detail in your plan. For more information on backups please refer to our Advice #25 Management of backups.
As part of vital records protection and recovery, data critical to the reconstitution of your agency's electronic records should be identified and able to be restored easily. Without the recovery and restoration of this data, business processes involving electronic recordkeeping may be impossible to recover and restore.
Measures for protecting and recovering data critical to the reconstitution of electronic records should be integrated with arrangements for protecting your agency's vital records. Critical data recovery planning ensures that copies of electronic datasets and their most current updates (whether in electronic form or as paper based input documents) are:
Writers on counter disaster planning usually advocate one of two approaches:
The level of detail will depend on the resources and time available for the development of the plan. It is important to plan for the most likely disasters identified at the Assessment stage. For example, agencies can reasonably expect to treat the effects of fire and water. However, in a disaster, staff will be under pressure so the plans should be as concise and easy to follow as possible.
The basic components of the plan may vary according to organisational needs, but should include the following:
A clearly written counter disaster plan is much easier to maintain, implement and use. Tips in writing include:
The plan needs to be regularly tested and maintained in order to be relevant. It should be reviewed and improved regularly to reflect your agency's current operating environment, for example when there are:
The plan should be tested periodically to maintain awareness, and to reveal any flaws. Supplies in disaster bins and rooms also need to be checked regularly to ensure that they have not been tampered with or depleted. Formal responsibility for the review should be assigned.
Reviews should be conducted after testing and after emergency situations to consider successes and failures and how implementation procedures might be changed to work more effectively. Internal audits of the counter disaster plan may also be conducted on at least a yearly basis. Changes to the plan should be documented to show the history of plan development. Agencies may also consider having their plan externally audited by a disaster management service provider.
After establishing the Disaster Preparedness Plan, your agency should establish a team or teams of volunteer staff from each section of the agency to take part in salvaging records. All response team members must be accessible by telephone for after hours call-out.
Each team must have a leader and deputy and include management, technical, administrative and operational staff. Teams will need to be trained in response and recovery techniques and have good knowledge of preventive measures. Teams will need to meet at least once a year and be informed of changes in the Disaster Preparedness Plan.
The Emergency Response Team should also consider what initial action the agency should take when a disaster occurs, who should be called and in what order, and what further action is required. The Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office should be on your list of priority contacts (see our contact details on p6). Remember that your priorities in responding and recovering records affected by the disaster have been laid down in your Disaster Preparedness Plan.
Simulations and brainstorming sessions should also be used to consider the action needed to ensure that recovery is facilitated. These include, for example, damage assessment strategies, alternative sites for resuming business operations, vendor assistance, alternative sites for recovery operations, and the use of vital record duplicates.
Reporting is a significant component of the response to a disaster. You should try to keep an adequate record of the emergency so that improvements can be made to prevent similar emergencies occurring in the future, or to make the response to any subsequent ones more efficient.
Allegra Huxtable (Manager, Government Recordkeeping) - ph 61 65 5580 or
Deborah Drinkell (Consultant, Government Recordkeeping) - ph 61 65 5588
For more detailed advice please contact Government Recordkeeping, Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office
91 Murray Street
HOBART TASMANIA 7000
Telephone: 03 61 65 5581
|1.1||Has a risk assessment of potential disaster events identifying threats to records and recordkeeping systems been performed?||Yes/No|
|2.1||Have priorities been established, identifying your agency's vital records?||Yes/No|
|3.1||Has a disaster preparedness plan for records and recordkeeping systems been developed and implemented?||Yes/No|
|3.2||Is the counter disaster plan for records and recordkeeping systems tested regularly and modified over time to reflect organisational, technological and recordkeeping changes?||Yes/No|
|4.1||Has emergency response team(s) been appointed?||Yes/No|
|5||Response and Recovery|
|5.1||Has the emergency response team(s) made adequate preparation for the agency's response and recovery to a disaster event?||Yes/No|
To ensure efficient recovery of physical records it is essential that you have appropriate equipment and materials readily available. The following items should be purchased for a disaster kit and be easily accessible to the emergency response team(s):
'Disaster Preparedness Manual for Commonwealth Agencies' (National Archives of Australia 2000)
'Disaster preparedness and recovery' (Queensland State Archives website)
'Standard on counter disaster strategies for records and recordkeeping systems' (NSW State Records website)
'Records Management Disaster Planning' (Guideline of State Records of South Australia 2007)
Australian Standard AS 4390-1996: Records Management (Standards Australia 1996)
Handbook HB221:2004 Business Continuity Management (Standards Australia 2004)
Handbook HB292:2006 A Practitioners Guide to Business Continuity Management (Standards Australia 2006)