Chapter 4 - Vital Records Mitigation Plan
The purpose of a mitigation plan is to enable employees to meet an emergency involving records with maximum efficiency and minimal loss of records or information. The plan should be activated before a disaster causes a major operational interruption or disruption within EPA facilities.
This plan is also designed to fulfill the General Services Administration (GSA) Occupant Emergency Program requirements, set forth in 41 CFR 102-74.230 - 102-74.260.
2. Disaster Mitigation.
Planning includes considering ways to avoid, where possible, the occurrence of emergency situations, however, not all situations may be foreseen. This tool kit establishes a command structure and a flexible outline for dealing with various levels of disasters or emergencies. Emergency responsibilities are defined for the protection and the preservation of Agency records and information in the custody of EPA offices.
The following considerations should be included in the office mitigation plan.
3. Safe Records Storage.
Records are to be stored no closer than six inches to ceilings or suspended lights, and no closer than eighteen inches to sprinkler heads. Records are not stored in contact with electrical or fire alarm systems or where they will obstruct any exit door, access panel, air conditioning duct or fire extinguisher.
Eating and drinking in the stack areas is strictly prohibited. Any water leaks or signs of the presence of rodents or insects should be reported immediately to your Records Officer.
Records Management staff are responsible for checking all storage area(s) quarterly. This includes the doors, walls, ceilings, vents, sprinklers, etc.
4. Fire Prevention.
Fire prevention procedures include good housekeeping, constant monitoring, and prompt elimination of fire hazards. Smoking is not permitted in any file or records storage area within EPA Offices.
No flammable solvents are kept in records storage areas. Trash is not allowed to accumulate. Electrical outlets are not overloaded, and extension cords, when used are industrial weight and grounded.
5. Sprinkler Systems.
All records storage area(s) are equipped with a sprinkler system. Records Officers shall identify or have building or facility locations where sprinkler system shut off valves are located and shall be familiar with their location.
6. Monitoring of Temperature and Humidity.
Temperatures for storage of paper should be between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (18-24 degrees Centigrade). Humidity should be about 50 percent; extended exposure below 30 percent causes drying and brittleness and higher than 75 percent causes mold. Temperature and humidity should not fluctuate over 5 percent within 24 hours.
There are no "archival" storage areas at the EPA facilities. Therefore, NARA standards requiring a constant temperature of 70 degrees (+/- 5 degrees) and a relative humidity of 50% (+/-5%) in archival storage are not binding. For this reason, temperature and relative humidity is not systematically monitored with hygro-thermographs. In the event of a water disaster, a psychrometer is authorized for use in monitoring the affected area.
7. The Disaster Action Team (DAT).
The Disaster Action Team. Preparation for disaster, intelligent response to disaster, and successful, efficient salvage after a disaster has occurred requires activation of a previously established team. A Disaster Action Team or DAT should stand ready to meet at any time day or night, in response to such a disaster. Its mission during disaster response is to evaluate the situation quickly, make assignments, gather needed equipment and materials, set up work areas, remove damaged records from the affected storage areas and when appropriate, to pursue inhouse recovery efforts. The DAT also guides the activities of other staff to accomplish efficient disaster response and recovery while preventing further damage to records or accidents to employees.
Responsibilities. The DAT has the following responsibilities:
Ensure that all reasonable measures have been taken to prevent disaster from occurring.
Assess and assist during any emergency in business and non-business hours.
Direct recovery operations to salvage the maximum volume of materials in a manner that will minimize future restoration costs and effort.
Identify vital records.
Establish recovery priorities. Each office should list its priorities in Appendix D.
Arrange for equipment, supplies, and space.
Periodically review this plan to ensure its continued effectiveness.
DAT Membership. Current DAT members include, but are not limited to, Records Officers, the Records Contract Manager, and records contract employee(s). Each office should list the members in their DAT in Appendix E.
8. Plan of Action for Emergency Situations -- Active Files and File Rooms.
First Step. The first step is to identify and evaluate the disaster; notify the appropriate personnel; and, take appropriate action. The following are general guidelines for dealing with emergency situations involving active files and records storage areas.
Fire. Any employee who discovers a fire promptly alerts the building through the use of the nearest fire alarm pull station (fire alarm box), or nearest fire alarm device.
Water Damaged Materials. Due to the necessity of immediate action, primary emphasis of this plan is on the salvage of water damaged materials. Short of destruction by explosion or fire, damage to records resulting from water is probably the most severe.
Virtually any wet document can be restored if prompt and proper action is taken. Exceptions are documents which contain water-soluble ink; and these documents should be microfilmed. Although the specific methods for salvaging small amounts of material may differ from the methods for salvaging large amounts, the same general procedures are used for any type of water damage. Contact NARA's Preservation Program for advice.
Insects or Rodents. To reduce the possibility of insect or rodent infestation, the strict rule prohibiting the presence of food or beverages in record and file areas must be enforced. Newly received records and supplies should be examined for the presence of insects and rodents. If records are infested with insects or rodents, contact the facility manager for assistance.
Bomb Threats. The person receiving a bomb threat should make every attempt to write down the exact words of the caller. Note the exact time the telephone call was received and when it ended. Note any speech characteristics of the caller. Try to obtain the following information from the caller in the following order:
- When is the bomb set to explode?
- Where is the bomb placed?
- What type of bomb is it?
- What does the bomb look like?
- Why was the bomb set?
- What will cause the bomb to explode?
Additionally, the recipient of the call should do the following:
Listen for background sounds (street, animal, public announcement system, motor, factory machinery, voices, static, house noises, office machinery, crockery, clear, music, booth).
Define the caller's voice (calm, stutter, slow, deep, loud, deep breathing, accent, nasal, excited, raspy, soft, clearing throat, crying, disguised, slurred, angry, lisp, rapid, ragged, laughter, cracking voice, distinct, familiar). If familiar, who do they sound like?
Describe the nature of the threatening language (well spoken, message read by caller, incoherent, taped, foul, irrational).
After the call has ended, the person who received the call should immediately (but discreetly) report the incident to his or her immediate supervisor. The Supervisor should then immediately notify the facility Security Office or EPA Security Officer , who will notify the Federal Protective Service. Building evacuation will be directed by the Emergency Response Team.
Serious Injury/Illness. If an employee or non-employee has a serious accident and/or becomes seriously ill at the facility, immediately call the local emergency 911 or the facility emergency number. Give the dispatcher the building address and the exact location of the stricken individual. Have someone available near the front entrance to direct paramedics to the scene. A supervisor should also be immediately notified. The Emergency Response Team will arrange for the periodic training of employees in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and basic first aid procedures.
Severe Storm Warnings. If a warning of an impending severe storm (such as torrential rain, gale force winds, damaging sleet, snow blizzard conditions, or tornado warning) is broadcast or ominous conditions are observed, a supervisor should be immediately notified. If necessary, the AA, RA, their deputies, or other facility directors will call for the quick and orderly evacuation of all employees to a given area within the building. The Executive in charge may allow early dismissal of employees. During periods of extremely heavy rain, conditions should be monitored to observe for the signs of flooding, blocked sewers, or other water-related problems.
Water Leaks. Upon discovery of a water leak in the building, employees should contact supervisors or a member of the facilities office. Advise the facilities contact of the leak, its location, what is occurring, and what measures are to be taken to prevent water damage to records. Records Officers should also be notified if records are being damaged. Plastic sheeting is to be immediately placed on the top of the filing units, cabinets, or file shelves near the leak. Pails and buckets may be needed to collect water. Constant monitoring of the situation is needed to see if additional leaks occur and to empty pails. If records are being damaged by leaking water, remove them to a safer dry area. Care is to be taken to identify each box and/or bound volume removed during the emergency action. The correct shelf location should be written on the respective label of each box removed.
Water leaks may occur at times other than during a heavy rain or ice/snowstorm. One should check for leaks during and after periods of heavy winds. Rainwater or snow that has collected on a flat roof may seep through one of the roof seams. Water may also seep through one opening, but flow within one of the many grooves on the roof, or a leaky window, and eventually fall several feet away from the actual point of entry. Condensing and air handling units located on the roof of the facility may also require examination as they have often been the source of roof leaks.
Sprinkler Head Damage. Alert the supervisor or Emergency Response Team immediately in the event that a sprinkler head is activated due to an accident or malfunction. Immediate steps must be taken to close off the system water supply in order to prevent water damage to records and/or property. The water supply to the sprinkler system may also be shut off by closing the appropriate outside post indicator valves in the valve houses.
Prolonged Power Outage. A power outage is usually a short-term inconvenience, not a major emergency. However, in the event of an extended power outage lasting more than one day, textual records and microfilm may be vulnerable to damage. Paper is sensitive to changes in air temperature and to the amount of water vapor in the air. Rapid changes in temperature and relative humidity over a short period of time will accelerate the irreversible deterioration process. High temperatures and/or low relative humidity may cause textual records, as well as electronic media, to become damaged. High relative humidity may cause textual records to warp and promote the growth of mold and mildew. Microfilm may be affected by rapid changes in temperature and relative humidity. Electronic images may be damaged by prolonged exposure. Images on disks and microfilm may become illegible under extreme environmental changes.
In the event of a prolonged power outage, every effort must be made to maintain proper temperature and relative humidity levels. Responsibility for facility power supply and proper climate controls lies with GSA. The facilities office should be contacted in any case of prolonged outage. Also contact the facilities office for power heaters or fans. Good air circulation is important. Temperature and relative humidity levels should be checked. If the power outage continues for an extended period, place extremely valuable or fragile records in a location that will maintain the desired temperature (70 degrees F. +/- 5 degrees) and relative humidity (50% +/- 5%). After power is restored, temperature and relative humidity should be gradually brought to normal levels.
Hazardous Materials Threats (including Contamination, Biological and Radiological Threats). Most building are located within a short distance of a railroad facility, major surface street and other transportation facilities . Although the chance of a toxic chemical-related derailment or explosion may appear to be remote, employees should be aware of this possibility. On several occasions, trains with tanker cars will sit several hours on these tracks. Derailment of chemical tanker cars could result in explosions and fires or release of toxic fumes. If such an event occurs and appears to threaten the safety of personnel and records, immediately call 911. The possibility exists of a hazardous chemical-related accident or disaster along or near local freeways. In such an occurrence, immediately call the fire department.
The Emergency Response Team must wait until public safety officials allow re-entry to the area around the building. None of the Emergency Response Team should undertake fighting chemical fires -- the fire fighting should be left to the fire department.
Earthquakes. The shock or tremor will provide the only warning in the event of an earthquake. During an earthquake, the following safety procedures should be followed:
Take immediate shelter under tables, desks, or other objects that will offer protection from flying glass and debris.
Step under a doorway or into a narrow hall or corridor. Do not leave cover until ordered to do so.
Evacuate the building if notified to do so by an intercom announcement, the Emergency Response Team, or the fire department.
Try to keep calm. Do not run outdoors. Watch for falling debris or electrical wires upon leaving the building.
If working in one of the stack area service aisles, employees should drop to the floor (supine position) and crawl to the main aisle. Proceed to a safe area away from the danger of being struck by falling glass, bricks, electrical wires, boxes, etc.
Notify the Emergency Response Team of any fires.
The Emergency Response Team will check the names of employees and visitors.
After an earthquake, the following emergency procedures should be followed:
Administer first aid and rescue victims as necessary. Report the seriously injured to the Emergency Response Team.
The public buildings service will turn off utilities and inspect utility lines for damage.
Reserve the telephones for emergency use only. Look for any damage or exposed hazards.