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Disaster Planning & Vital Records

Disaster planning and vital records protection are critical elements of an effective records management program. The Commonwealth's Emergency Operations Plan requires local government agencies to develop plans to protect records that are vital to governmental activities so that critical services will be uninterrupted, maintained or restored in the event of a disaster. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission is responsible for disseminating information to these agencies relating to the identification, preservation and protection of vital records.

In addition to providing training sessions relating to disaster planning and vital records protection, staff of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission's Bureau of Archives and History have prepared generic templates (Microsoft Word format) for a Disaster Response and Recovery Plan. These templates can be used by a variety of institutions including local governments to help prepare for potential disasters that could affect their records. By filling in the appropriate information, a local government can tailor these two plans to address its specific needs and programs.

The Disaster Response and Recovery Plan for Records template includes information about prevention and preparation as well as recovery. The Disaster Plan Appendices template contains forms that can be used to develop lists and directories. The information listed in Appendices 4 and 6 relating to vendors is part of the Disaster Response and Recovery Plan for the Pennsylvania State Archives. Institutions may utilize this information, but its inclusion in these templates in no way constitutes an endorsement of said vendors by the Pennsylvania State Archives or the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. The Vital Records Protection Plan contains information on identifying and protecting an institution's vital records as well as disaster preparedness and response. The appendices include an inventory form for vital records and a hazards survey worksheet.

A disaster plan and vital records plan can protect valuable records, save time and money, and ensure the continued operation of a local government whether a disaster is as small as a roof leak or as devastating as a major fire. Once these plans have been completed, they should be reviewed with all staff members and updated on a regular basis to reflect changes in personnel, policies, facilities, equipment and records.

For additional information or assistance with completing these templates, contact Jerry Ellis at (717) 787-3384 or RA-LocalGovernment@pa.gov. Mail inquires may be sent to Mr. Ellis at the following address: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Pennsylvania Archives Building, 350 North Street, Harrisburg, PA 17120-0090.