Maybe you're all tired of this 'thread", but I thought the following points
of clarification might be useful.  This is a consolidation of responses to
some points that have been raised in both listserv and private e-mails......

TERMINOLOGY -- One posting questioned whether owners of records (even
records managers) really use ANSI/ARMA glossary standards when putting their
programs together.  You should understand that the ANSI/ARMA "Glossary of
Records and Information Management Terms" really formalizes the
well-established long-term usage of terms such as vital records, inactive
records, active records, historical records, records centers, archives, etc.
For example, we use the classic definition of "vital records" which pertains
to those 3-5% of an organization's records necessary to ensure they can
continue in business if a disaster strikes.  Putting the definitions in a
standard didn't *change* the terms, although it did give them more formality
and "weight".  These are the classic definitions -  since the NFPA standard
is for protection of records - it is logical to use the terminology that has
been developed throughout the history of our profession.

COST AS A FACTOR IN CHOOSING SERVICES - We do not support treating records
as you would commodity storage of blank paper.  We are not saying that "low
cost" should be *the* determining factor in selecting a records center.  We
are saying that cost is *one* factor that the owner of the records has to
consider.  If the standard is written to establish one, very stringent
specification for protection of *all* categories of records - some records
that are of lesser value will receive more protection than is really
necessary.  This assumes that the level of protection would have to be set
very high to protect archival value, vital records and permanent records.
It would mean that records of lesser value would be "over-protected" and,
that the users of the facility would absorb more costs than really
necessary.  Although cost should never be the only criteria for making a
vendor selection, it usually weighs pretty heavy in the decision.  Consider
also that this standard is not restricted to commercial records centers -
companies who establish their own records centers follow the specifications
- so there's a construction cost consideration there as well.

TIERED LEVELS OF PROTECTION - the above discussion leads to the conclusion
that establishing 3 tiers of protection is an appropriate strategy (Vault,
records center, file rooms). Vaults would be primarily used for the
archival, vital, historical, special media and permanent records.  But, if a
company decided they wanted to use the vault for other categories of records
(maybe, records applicable to litigation for example), that is their choice.
Likewise, if records which were not previously categorized as vital, become
vital - they can be moved into the higher levels of protection.  Records
center standards should provide adequate fire protection for records which
are inactive, but are living out their required retention periods.  File
rooms would apply to centralized storage areas "on-site", that is, in the
office building the organization  occupies.  Keep in mind that one facility
may be able to offer both vault storage and more general records storage.  I
have used many facilities in the past where this was the case.

I was asked whether ARMA would recommend the standard be three parts, or one
standard with sub-standards for protection of varying types?  My
understanding of the direction NFPA has been taking in its standards program
is to consolidate the standards that deal with the same types of issues.  To
be consistent with that trend, and also to make it easier for people to use,
we suggest that NFPA 232 remain one publication addressing protection of
records in the 3 tiers identified above.  It would probably be easiest to
use if each tier of protection has its own chapter.

 ROLE OF RM'S vs. ROLE OF THE STANDARD - The *standard*  should set
appropriate levels of protection for each of the tiers defined above.  If
those levels are clearly defined so that everyone has the same
understanding, the communication between RM's, other records owners who
don't have RM's,  fire marshals, and commercial records centers will have
the same foundation and this should improve the relationships among all the
parties involved.  If we all work from the same definitions of protection
levels and terms, those people making purchase decisions, can make better
risk assessments for the records they are placing in storage.  Likewise,
commercial storage providers can indicate what levels of protection their
facilities provide.

Sorry this is so long -


Diane K. Carlisle, CRM
Director of Professional Resources
ARMA International
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