Be Prepared

Departments - Customer Viewpoint

  • November 20, 2012
  • Marilyn Bier

When Superstorm Sandy hit the northeastern United States, more than 7.5 million businesses and households in 15 states and the District of Columbia were left without power, according to numbers compiled by CNN from local power providers. Flooding all along the eastern seaboard also caused billions of dollars in damage to hundreds of thousands of businesses, shutting many down.

How many of them were prepared for such a disaster and will be able to survive is yet unknown, but chances are that a tremendous number of businesses will not because they had not developed an emergency management plan.

Being prepared for an emergency includes protecting an organization’s most critical assets. While protecting employees, facilities and equipment is at the top of the list for most organizations, they may not think about how important it is to protect their vital records, which are critical to their ability to resume operations.

Organizations need to act immediately to protect three categories of vital records:

  1. Records needed for emergency operations, such as business continuity plans, emergency management communication lists and personnel contact lists;
  2. Records needed for resumption and continuation of business, such as current customer or client files, in-progress accounts payable and accounts receivable and current contracts and agreements; and
  3. Records needed for legal or audit purposes, such as accounts payable and accounts receivable files, existing contracts and agreements and unaudited financial records.

Surviving a disaster goes well beyond protecting vital records, though. Organizations must develop a comprehensive emergency management plan.

Developing an emergency management plan may seem overwhelming, but ARMA International can assist as a key partner and resource.

Emergency Management for Records & Information Programs, available through the ARMA bookstore, is a valuable resource to assist all who are responsible for the protection of their organization’s information resources. It is an organized guide through the essential phases of emergency management: prevention (mitigation), preparedness, response and—ultimately—recovery.


The author is executive director of Overland Park, Kan.-based ARMA International (, a nonprofit professional association and an authority on information management and governance.