The importance of comprehensive records management including disaster management planning will be highlighted when the Territory observes Records MayDay on Friday, May 1.
The Archives and Records Management Unit is spearheading the observation. Chief Records Management Officer Mr. Christopher Varlack stated that the Virgin Islands is vulnerable to both natural and man-made disasters, which signifies that local preparedness begins by knowing the variety of threats to the Territory and how to address them at all stages.
Mr. Varlack said Records MayDay is an observance started by the Society of American Archivists after Hurricane Katrina and other hurricanes which battered the Gulf Coast of the United States in 2005.
He stated, “It was found that most corporate entities there did not have disaster plans or plans that included records. Aside from the significant damage to not only real property, but information assets and intellectual property, there were few, if any emergency response mechanisms in place to save any of the records that may have been salvageable.”
Records MayDay was first observed in May 2006 as a means of raising awareness of the threat natural and man-made disasters posed to records and archives. These include records with significant value, and of a personal nature, such as wills, living wills, birth, death or marriage certificates; passports, diplomas and other educational certificates, rent receipts, bills and tax documents.
Mr Varlack also indicated that certain government records require safe-keeping and preservation based on statute, regulation and policy. These he said include registration, survey and other records relative to land and real estate.
Director of the Department of Disaster Management Ms. Sharleen DaBreo, stressed the importance of a well-structured approach to preserving records and the need to incorporate disaster preparedness components that help to assess risks and determine appropriate mitigation measures for safe-guarding important records.
Ms DaBreo said, “It is extremely difficult to recover records. It is a costly practice and it can affect you psychologically and emotionally depending on what is lost. You can also go through a very difficult process of retrieving personal records so preparation and prevention is of utmost importance.”
Businesses, Government personnel and citizens can learn practical steps to preserve and safeguard their records on Records MayDay, by visiting the Archives and Records Management Unit’s Open House on Friday from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.
Information on how to incorporate records management into disaster plans will be available. Attendees can also view a complete disaster management kit and receive an electronic folder filled with resources to better prepare for potential hazard impact. The folder will also hold guidelines for response and business continuity following a disaster, in addition to a self grading ‘check-up’ to see how well prepared agencies are before disaster strikes.
The Archives and Records Management Unit is located on the second floor of the Burhym Building directly upstairs Varieties and Electronics. It is a member of the Society of American Archivists and is the Government agency with responsibility for promoting best practices in archives and records management.