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How to prepare your customers for disaster

By Heather Shimala, Document Recovery Account Manager

“Prepare for the unknown by studying how others in the past have coped with the unforeseeable and the unpredictable.” – Gen. George S. Patton

If only we truly learned from our mistakes. What a novel idea, right? I’ve spent the last 15 years in the information management evolution, from the intoduction of HIPAA to the recent security breach you read about on your LinkedIn feed. You’d think that we would have learned the importance of securely disposing of a record. Sadly, that isn’t always the case.

It isn’t uncommon for me to get a call from someone saying, “you haven’t seen anything like this before.” Sometimes I am caught off guard, like when I got a call about a racoon masacare taking place in a storage container behind a client’s building. There was blood and other unmentionables on all of the records that were under a legal hold. I get those types of calls. Or, the time a psychiatric hospital called me about a patient (frustrated by the day’s activites) who poured bottles of bleach all over onsite records. I get those calls too, and usually I can help them.

The calls that I look forward to getting are the calls that we can all help with. These are the day-to-day losses that occur that we hear about on the news or read about in the paper, including a local office that caught fire or a pipe that broke on the 10th floor of a building damaging all of the company records. These are the calls that your customers need to be making to you. Unfortunetly, often we find out after the fact, when it’s too late to help them, that records were inproperly disposed. Often, it’s an anxious facilites manager or a janitor that does not know better and sends the records to the local landfill.

Your customers know that secure records need to be properly destroyed using NAID’s guidelines. They comply with the compliance laws for shredding. However, something changes when a loss occurs, things become emotional and caotic. Your customer might tell you that the wet or charred records do not have identifying information on them. Or, they might tell you that the records were damaged in an “event” and can be disposed of. Would they dispose of secure records normally? In almost every case, the answer is no.

As information management professionals it is our job to educate our customers. We need to help our customers think about the unthinkable and how they should prepare for these events. Who is notified when documents are affected? Who do you call? What do they need to do? We can help them plan and prepare so they aren’t dealing with something much worse after the loss occurs.

The situations I mentioned above came from real clients who weren’t sure what to do. Should they destroy everything? Destroy half and recover the rest? You can help them. You just need to start the dialogue between your customers and your team to provide solid solutions.

To hear more about this topic, attend Heather Shimala’s session, “Disaster Strikes, Now What?,” at the NAID 2015 Annual Conference on Friday, March 20 at 4 p.m.