Protective measures can be used on a daily basis to protect not only the Vital Records in your office, but all other records as well. These measures need to be followed regularly and evaluated to ensure that you are providing an appropriate level of protection for your records. Listed below are some general preventative tips for various types of disasters as well as a discussion of media formats.

Preventive Measures


  • Reduce the use of fiber- or felt-tip marking pens for the creation of records unless you are certain they are not water-soluble. Handwritten entries in logbooks or other records that have long-term or historical value should be made in permanent ink to prevent loss of information through water damage.
  • Follow approved retention periods for records to ensure the timely destruction/deletion of obsolete records, thus decreasing the amount of records in your office.


  • Do not store records with chemicals, cleaning supplies, etc. Store flammable and combustible materials in a safe, cool place, out of sunlight and inside cabinets made specifically to store hazardous materials.
  • Do not store records by a furnace, radiator, lights, or heaters. Ensure that electrical appliances are operated at a safe distance from flammable materials, and they are turned off when not in use. Comply with all local fire, electrical, plumbing, heating, and construction codes.


  • Locate all your drains and have them checked regularly.
  • Regularly inspect the sprinkler system and water pipes. Check the general condition of the storage site to determine if the area is susceptible to flooding, if the building has structural defects, maintenance issues, is developing leaks, etc.
  • Try not to store records directly on the floor, especially in carpeted areas. (Carpets may retain water and prevent drainage, thus creating a problem later when trying to stabilize the temperature and humidity of area).
  • Try not to store records in areas that have exposed sewer pipes (to cut down on the threat of leakage).


  • Identify and inform staff responsible for locking windows and doors at closing time.
  • Strict control of all building keys/codes, with locks changed when keys/codes are lost.
  • Strict supervision of non-staff who enter the building, including cleaners and maintenance workers.
  • Provide password-limited access to computer systems.

Animal/Insect Invasion

  • Conduct a building inspection to identify and block all potential points of animal entry.
  • Place strong, fine mesh screening over all necessary openings - such as windows or skylights, ventilators, chimneys and screened doors for all external doorways.
  • Regular and thorough cleaning of ceilings, walls, floors and all furniture.

Specific Media Formats


  • Store systems off the ground to avoid damage in the case of a flood.
  • Provide password-limited access to computer systems.
  • Use a cloud service that aligns with the privacy requirements of your department. The only cloud-based service at UW that is both HIPAA and FERPA compliant is OneDrive for Business, which can be accessed by anyone with an active NetID. Check with your local IT or UW-IT for their storage recommendations, policies, and guidelines.
  • Use virus protection. UW faculty, staff, students, researchers, clinicians, and those at Harborview Medical Center have free access to Sophos Endpoint through the university.


  • Keep paper records in file cabinets or drawers when not in use.
  • Consider creating a unique way to identify filing cabinets that hold Vital Records.

Photographs and negatives (including aerial photos)

  • Store negatives and photographs separately.
  • Do not expose photographs or negatives to direct sunlight.
  • Use cotton gloves when handling original photos and negatives.
  • Store in cool dry place away from overhead steam or water pipes, washrooms, or other sources of water. When not in use, store photos and negatives in individual paper or plastic enclosures (polyester, polyethylene, or polypropylene).
  • Do not use manila envelopes, glassine envelopes, polyvinylchloride, rubber bands, paper clips, bulldog clips, ACCO fasteners, etc.
  • Never write on the back of a photograph with anything but a pencil.

Maps (including architectural drawings and cartographic items)

  • Avoid storing maps and drawings rolled or folded. Optimal storage condition is in a flat shallow drawer map case. Store large, heavy atlases and other bound volumes of maps or drawings flat to reduce the amount of stress placed on the spine.
  • Material should be placed inside acid free folders for added protection.
  • Do not laminate oversized records. The process is difficult to reverse without damage to the records and has been replaced by other preservation, storage, and treatment options.
  • Encapsulate old or fragile maps in clear stable plastic.