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A 10-Step Records Management Plan for Your Office

This document outlines the primary steps to follow to establish and maintain a records management program for your office. Why is this important?

First, as a Federal employee, at the EPA, you will be creating and using Federal government records. There are rules governing the use and destruction of all Federal records. For example, it is your responsibility to protect Federal records in your custody, and there are legal implications for destroying records without the proper authority.

Second, following good records management practices will not only help you meet legal requirements, they will benefit you and the Agency in many ways such as:

Here is the 10-step records management plan for your office.

Step 1. Determine who will be responsible and what resources will be needed.

Establish a project team with representatives from all sub units and job series (not just support and clerical staff) to oversee the project. The project team should:

Step 2. Identify records needed to document the activities and functions of your office.

Conduct an inventory of the materials in your office. Don't forget to include empty offices, closets, and other areas where things may have been "stashed."

Document, at a minimum, where materials are located, how much there is, and the format (e.g., paper, electronic, maps, etc.). (When you have a "snapshot" of the scope of materials in your office, you may need to go back to Step 1 and review the resources available to complete the project.)

An inventory will help you identify which materials are:

The inventory will also help you identify which records would need to be immediately available in the event of an emergency (vital records).

Step 2 resources

Step 3. Establish your procedures (recordkeeping requirements).

Now that you know what you have in your office, the project team needs to determine:

Remember - Nonrecord materials such as convenience copies and personal papers need to be maintained separate from records.

Step 3 resources

Step 4. Match your records to the records schedules.

The next step in the project is to match the records identified in your inventory with the records schedules. Records schedules provide information on how long records are to be kept in the office and what happens when they are no longer needed in the office. Retention periods as stated in the schedules are mandatory.

Step 4 resources

Records schedules can be found on the National Records Management Program (NRMP) website. There are two sets:

If a records schedule is still in draft, you can not destroy records covered by that schedule until it has been moved to the approved portion of the website.

Contact the National Records Management Program Help Desk if:

Step 5. Prepare a "file plan."

Now that you know what records you have and what the appropriate records schedules are, you can begin to organize them. EPA records are organized using the Agency file codes to provide the first level of organization or the "main category."

Once you have identified the file code, place them in numerical order (e.g., 401 110 - Office Administrative Files, 405 202 - Contract Management Records, ...).

Then, determine if there will be sub-categories or sub-folders and what they will be. For example:

          401 110 - Reports and Statistics

               Annual activity reports
               Personnel reports

Step 5 resources

Step 6. Document your recordkeeping requirements and procedures.

Prepare a document, a file plan, which gives details on:

Include all the decisions you made in steps 1 through 5 (e.g., what happens to draft documents).

Step 7. Clean out records which are beyond the approved retention periods.

Once you have documented your file plan you can begin to organize your records. First, however, it is a good idea to get rid of those materials in your office which are not needed. If authorized by the records schedule, you can:

Step 7 resources

Step 8. Organize your records.

Now you can begin to implement your file plan.

First, prepare folders and organize documents within the folders. Follow the procedures established in your file plan.

Place reference sheets in folders, when necessary, to refer users to the location of related non-paper materials such as maps, drawings, videotapes, etc.

Organize electronic documents (e.g., WordPerfect documents, e-mail messages) residing on individual computer or local network directories using the Agency file codes.

Remember to spend the majority of your time on the "mission-related" records and less on administrative or "housekeeping" records such as routine correspondence.

Step 9. Maintain your records on an on-going basis.

Once everything is organized, it is important to keep it current and up to date. Be sure to:

Step 10. Train, train, train.

Congratulations! Now you have a file plan. You've cleaned out all the unnecessary materials and organized the necessary materials. Your job isn't over yet! You need to be sure all staff members (and contractors) know about their recordkeeping responsibilities. Records liaisons need to brief senior management on the importance of your records management program and train office staff on how it works.

To help you, the NRMP offers:

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