Halt! Stop that disaster and save those vital records!

A vital register is…well… vital. It tells you what records you create, receive and manage that are vital to ongoing business. These are the records that you really need and help stop your agency from falling in a heap or your colleagues from running around like those proverbial headless chickens.

Despite what the title of this blog says, a vital records register isn’t just for disasters but is crucial to your agency’s business continuity planning (BCP), which will then feed in to your disaster management strategies and planning. It can also help you manage your records efficiently – it allows you to prioritise your records according to your business needs.

Thinking about vital records as part of the ‘big picture’, the process for determining what goes into your vital records register will usually be a part of the wider process you take to identify your agency’s overall permanent, high-value and high-risk records. Although the scope for this is generally wider than vital records, it provides a good starting point.

You’ll need to talk to whoever in your agency does your BCP to make sure the vital records register is included in the overall agency BCP and disaster planning. It can also be part of your strategic recordkeeping plan.

Our advice on vital records covers everything from your vital records plan, how to identify your vital records, and how to document, track and manage them. But what does a vital register look like? What should you include? Our advice does give you information about what to include in your register, but here is an example of how it might look with all the information there.

Keep in mind, this is just an example and your vital records register could be organised the most suitable way for your agency. You do need to make sure it is accessible in times of crisis though, so make sure it’s in a format you can access easily from off-site, without power or internet!

Example of managing vital records

Katie is the Manager of Records and Information Management for Lamingtown Shire Council. She recently helped review their business continuity plan, which included information about their high-value records.

They don’t have a specific vital records register, but they do have processes and tools in place to identify and manage their vital records.

First, their eDRMS has optional additional metadata fields allowing them to include the vital records information as an addition to the retention period. They added this information in for all vital records stored in the eDRMS.

Some of these include:

  • business continuity and disaster plans
  • staff listings, contact details, and pay information
  • council minutes and reports
  • building plans
  • current and previous file plans
  • contact details for off-site records storage

Most of these records are backed-up to the cloud to enable access to this information in an emergency or from off-site.

But, there are also a lot of information and records in business systems and applications that are also vital. For business continuity purposes, they actually needed the whole system, not just the records. That meant the whole system was the high-value record.

They not only listed all of the relevant systems as high-value and vital records but also what order of priority they needed to be restored following a disaster or outage event. Additionally, they made sure that any records relating to the administration of these systems were identified as the most valuable records. This included the user manuals, any records of system settings, information about where the servers were etc.

They also decided to back-up these records in hard-copy and in the cloud, separately to their normal system back-up on site, to ensure they would always have access to this information.

Example of a vital records register

James, the Records Team Leader at Lamingtown Power, does have a vital records register. Here’s an extract from their register:

Record type Location & Format Retention period Accessibility requirements Frequency of update
Plant overhaul schedules, scope and plans All records in digital format.


Located in Plant Management folder in eDRMS.


Back-up versions in paper stored off-site at Recall in case of emergency.

·    Permanent (Historical significance)

·    7 years after the disposal of building, structure or plant.

All records needed and easily accessible to restore power in the event of system failure or interruption from disaster or other event.


Some information may be with external regulatory bodies and may be recreated.

Review 6 monthly
Registered plant drawings Review 6 monthly
Registered plant procedures and manuals Review 6 monthly

Update yearly.

More information

You can find more information about business continuity planning and vital records, as well as high-risk and high-value records on the website.  And if that’s not enough, we also have a blog post on high-value records as part of our series on the Records Governance Policy and the different policy requirements.

You might also want to check out some of the resources and organisations listed on the Disaster planning and response resources on the website, including the other archives around Australia – they have some good resources on vital records, disaster management and recovery too.

And if, like Katie and Lamingtown Shire Council, you’re backing-up some information to the cloud, check out our advice on cloud storage and services to learn more about the recordkeeping considerations.

Remember, you can contact us via email, telephone, blog, Twitter.

Also, just like in the movies, all names, characters, places, and incidents portrayed in this blog post are fictitious and are not based on real people or incidents in any way (as far as we know).

And if you’re interested in the story of Lamingtown so far, you can check out the other blogs here.



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