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Frequent Questions about Retiring Records


What does it mean to "retire" records?

Retiring records refers to sending inactive records to offsite storage until they are eligible for final disposition (i.e., destruction or transfer to the National Archives).

Why should I retire my records?

You should retire records as soon as possible for several reasons:

  • It frees valuable office space and equipment for current records.
  • Using offsite storage costs much less than using office space and equipment.
  • It reduces the time needed to retrieve active records and reduces the possibility of misfiling or misplacing active records.
When should I retire records?

You should retire records after they are closed and become inactive.

What is a "closed" or "inactive" record?

A closed record is one that will have no new information added to it and can be considered inactive (i.e., no longer needed to conduct Agency business). A record is closed either at the end of a defined period of time (e.g., end of the calendar year) or when a certain event takes place (e.g., final payment). Should any part of the record still be required for Agency business, incorporate it into your active records. However, inactive records used only as reference material should be kept separately and not incorporated into the active records.

Can I keep inactive records in the office just in case I might need them?

If you find that you need to frequently reference inactive records, you can keep them onsite for a short time before retiring them. If you need to refer to them on a monthly basis, for example, it's probably a good idea to keep them onsite. If you do keep them onsite, be sure they are separated from the active records to guard against misfiling and to ensure they are properly destroyed or transferred to the National Archives at the end of their approved retention.

Don't the schedules give directions on how long to maintain inactive records in the office before retiring them to the FRC?

Retirement guidance is being removed from the schedules. This allows each office to retire records based on their business needs (e.g., how often the records are needed for reference, space and equipment considerations).

Where can I send my records for retirement?

EPA's preferred storage facility is the Federal Records Center (FRC), which are operated by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The FRC and its staff are well equipped to manage records and keep them secure until their final disposition. You may use other storage facilities, if they meet the requirements specified in NARA's regulations (36 CFR Part 1234).

How do I retire records?

Remove inactive records from active records and place them in a records retirement box. Prepare a detailed list of the contents of each box so that records can be easily located while stored.  If you retire records to the FRC, use a GSA box (GSA# 8115-00-117-8249) and complete a Standard Form (SF) 135 for approval. Other forms may also be required for special media records or records with special restrictions. Each program office, region, and lab has a Records Liaison Officer (RLO) who can assist you with retiring records.  

What if I need my records after they've been retired?

The Agency retains legal custody of records retired to storage. They can be recalled from retirement any time before their final disposition.

Can I retire electronic or special media records?

Some storage facilities do have the capability to safely store special media records (e.g., electronic, audiovisual, microform). However, we recommend that you consider the need to ensure the continued usability and access (e.g., migration to updated media or technology) of the records before retiring them to offsite storage.  Always contact your area FRC or other storage facility for a list of media they accept. Special media records requiring permanent retention, however, may be transferred directly to the National Archives for safekeeping.

Where can I go for additional guidance?

See Using the Federal Records Center for more guidance on retiring records.

If you still have questions about retiring your records, contact your program office, region, or lab RLO, or the Records Help Desk.


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