Chapter 6 - Training, Testing, and Validating the Plan
The purpose of training, testing, and validating the vital records plan is to ensure that it can actually be used in the event of an emergency. Without performing these steps, it is likely that the plan will become outdated and that key personnel will be unfamiliar with their responsibilities when an emergency strikes, making effective response difficult. In contrast, if appropriate training, testing, and validation occurs, emergency response is far more likely to be quick and appropriate, with minimal damage to vital records. In addition it will validate the plan by ensuring that it is consistent with NARA and EPA guidance.
The EPA Vital Records Officer is responsible for training office staff in their responsibilities related to the vital records program. It is essential that all personnel know what their role is and when it needs to be done. In the midst of an emergency, people will be distracted and will be unable to remember the procedures unless the plan has been made familiar to them through training and testing in a nonemergency situation.
3. Review and Testing.
Review and testing of the plan involves the following steps.
Distribute the plan. Remember that the plan may contain confidential information so distribution should be carefully controlled. (For example, sending copies via electronic mail may not be appropriate.) However, employees involved with records management and the COOP, as well as management, should have a controlled copy of the plan in both paper and electronic format.
Train employees in advance regarding their responsibilities. Staff and management need to understand what their responsibilities are. In a disaster situation, there will be a need to perform the following tasks. This is an extensive list of responsibilities and there will be something for many people to do. It is crucial that the appropriate people be trained in advance and have a chance to practice their duties.
Account for location of all employees.
Disseminate information quickly on working conditions, payroll, and employee benefits.
Obtain quick access to vital records stored off-site, possibly during non-business hours.
In the case of more minor disasters, contain the damage in the building, such as damage to records via water leakage.
Use a bank card to make emergency purchases.
Work with the COOP staff to coordinate business at the emergency operations facility.
Coordinate salvage efforts with disaster recovery firms.
Perform drills of the plan. The plan should also be periodically tested, much as fire drills and building evacuation procedures are tested. The test should include the records disaster recovery team and evaluate its activities as well as the usefulness and thoroughness of the recovery plan. Modifications to either the plan or to the team's responsibilities should be made as needed.
Conduct a test every six months to evaluate the condition and readiness of the plan. Report test results to management within 30 days after the test, along with recommendations for resolving any deficiencies found during the test.
Validation involves checking the plan to ensure it is consistent with the NARA checklist (see Appendix J) for a functioning vital records plan. Each item should be checked off as completed.
This checklist reflects NARA regulations and recommended practices for the development and implementation of federal records disaster mitigation and records recovery programs. Offices may find it useful in evaluating their records management procedures for vital records.
The Vital Records Officer conducts a periodic review of the records recovery plan with the assistance of selected Agency officials to determine its adequacy and accuracy. This review should include the list of vendors (with telephone numbers, addresses, and other relevant data) that may have to be called upon in case of an actual records emergency or disaster. Update all contact information, including the list of records disaster recovery specialists including their areas of expertise, addresses, telephone numbers, and an individual point of contact to ensure that it remains accurate and current.
For more information, see appendices H and I, which list vital records and disaster recovery resources. A summary of commitments to which Regional offices are agreeing, as well as the NARA checklist, are shown in Appendix J.