What happens if city records are destroyed during a disaster?

*If records are maintained electronically, hopefully backups can be brought online and computer equipment can be salvaged or replaced quickly. In the case of physical records, it is essential to examine the condition of offices, warehouses, and other locations where records are stored as soon as possible. Unfortunately, some physical records just aren’t going to be salvageable or will be too costly to send to a conservation lab for restoration. For some ideas on how to begin triaging records, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) has a webinar with some suggestions. In cases where the records cannot be recovered, city officials need to document the types of records affected, the volume of records lost, and when the records were due for destruction. For non-permanent records, this internal documentation is sufficient. But for any permanent records, TSLAC will need to be notified. City officials should submit an SLR 501: Request for Authority to Destroy Unscheduled Records (PDF) to TSLAC. It is helpful to TSLAC if the city can include photos, a letter describing the circumstances that lead to the damage, or any other evidence that supports the information you will provide on the form.

Now, the INTENDED use for these forms is either to obtain permission and legal authority to destroy unique records that do not appear on a local government’s approved retention schedule, which otherwise would be permanent OR to request permission from TSLAC to destroy the paper original of a record a local government wants to microfilm.

That being said, if permanent records are damaged/rendered unsalvageable from conditions beyond your control, submit this form to TSLAC in order to officially document and note the event, any pertinent details, and number/ type of records that were destroyed.

This does not absolve you of legal responsibility for following the retention period set by your schedules; it just provides evidence about the nature of the records’ destruction. By doing this in the normal course of business, it shows that information was not intentionally withheld or destroyed.

If you have any questions about our forms or the process, please contact TSLAC at 512-463-7610 or by email.

*Via, the Texas Record (Sep. 6, 2017)

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1. What happens if city records are destroyed during a disaster?