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In the Loop - June 2008

Some In The Loop articles and links are pertinent to EPA staff and are available to EPA Intranet users only.

Tip of the Week: Transfer of records custodians (25-JUN-2008)

A records custodian is the person who has the guardianship of or responsibility for records.  This includes physical possession (physical custody) and/or legal responsibility (legal custody). There are many reasons for records to be transferred from one custodian to another including:

  • the departure of staff,
  • a change in work assignments, or
  • an Agency or office reorganization.

If your records are being transferred to a new custodian, you must alert your Records Liaison Officer (RLO) so that custodial information can be updated in your office's file plan and in the Enterprise Content Management System (ECMS).

If you are asked to accept custody of records from another agency or asked to transfer custody of your records to another agency, contact your RLO or the Records Help Desk before taking action. In most cases, the custody of records cannot be transferred from one agency to another without the approval of the Agency Records Officer and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

See the Introduction and Inactive Records Chapter of the Records Management Manual and 36 CFR 1231 for more information about the responsibilities of records custodians and the transfer of custody.

Tip of the Week: Clear document names (17-JUN-2008)

Like folder titles, your document file names and e-mail subject lines should clearly identify the information contained in the document or e-mail. Using easy to understand and unique identifiers (e.g., site or personal names, dates, topic description) make your records easy to identify and retrieve in file plans and ECMS folders. For example:

  Easy to identify the topic or content Unclear topic or content
document name April Lake Mead data report Lake Mead
e-mail subject Unauthorized destruction of grant records Problem
document name Dexter Epstein Proposal Evaluation Proposal Evaluation
e-mail subject Scheduling Agency Electronic Information Systems Scheduling

See the March 25, 2008 "Tip of the Week" for more information about user-friendly titles.

Tip of the Week: Secure records (10-JUN-2008)

Your recordkeeping responsibilities include keeping your records secure. The criteria for determining the level of security and control for your records include the information's:

  • sensitivity,
  • value, and
  • replaceability.

Safeguards for the security of records include:

  • ensuring they are captured into an approved recordkeeping system,
  • labeling records with the appropriate identifying information (e.g., Agency file codes, records titles, date range),
  • tracking the location of your records either with a manual or automated tracking system,
  • matching your records to a records schedule and following the disposition instructions in that schedule.

Sensitive or confidential records require extra security measures including:

  • locking file cabinets or desk drawers to prevent unauthorized access,
  • designating work areas as off limits to unauthorized staff,
  • avoiding the use of unsecured information systems (e.g., Internet sites, electronic bulletin boards) to transmit this information, and
  • shredding or otherwise completely destroying sensitive or confidential records when they are due for final disposition.

Your organization may also have program specific requirements for handling confidential records.  You can also find additional information on confidential records in the Information Sensitivity Compendium and the Information Security Manual.

ALERT: New Guidance on Completing SF 135s (06-JUN-2008)

The Federal Records Center (FRC) in Suitland, Maryland, has recently issued new guidance (PDF) for completing the Standard Form 135, Records Transmital and Receipt (SF 135). The guidance includes instructions for security classifications and folder lists for permanent records. While the guidance is specific to the Suitland FRC, it will be useful for record retirements to all FRCs.

Tip of the Week: A well planned file plan (03-JUN-2008)

A well planned and well documented file plan can improve your ability to quickly find and retrieve records. This is especially important for improving your use of the Enterprise Content Management System (ECMS) or when responding to time-sensitive requests such as Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, which must be processed within 20 working days after the request is received by the appropriate office.

Your office's file plan should document the location and custodian of all your office's records, including those maintained by government contractors, so you can use it to respond quickly to FOIA and other information requests.

See the File Plan Guide and Six Steps to Better Files for more information about file plans.

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