a record that is crucial in providing the right response to an emergency or disaster, protecting the legal and financial rights of a government or individuals, and promoting the overall welfare of individuals and communities.
Essential Record Details
Essential records can be grouped into Emergency Operating Records (EOR), and Legal and Financial Rights Records (FRR). The EOR group includes records necessary for an organization to continue operating or rebuild itself following an emergency. On the other hand, the FRR group is composed of records created for the legal and financial protection of the government and everyone who is directly impacted by its actions and decisions.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has widened the scope of the definition of essential records, which is now attached to emergency management. This means these records now have vital relevance as far as Primary Mission Essential Functions (PMEFs) and Mission Essential Functions (MEFs) are concerned.
Both PMEFs and MEFs are integral functions that agencies are expected to sustain or restart after any disruption in their routine. Hence, FEMA’s definition of essential records now includes records that are necessary for the performance of PMEFs.
Real-World Example of Essential Record
One common example of an essential record is a medical record. Let’s take the case of patient Edward Vedder, a 33-year-old male. Like anyone else’s medical record, Mr. Vedder’s will begins with his basic information: name, age, gender, address, contact details, and so on. This will then be followed by his medical condition, which is diabetes mellitus.
As a DM patient, Mr. Vedder will be getting Lisinopril 20mg, 1 tablet per orem (oral) once a day, plus Humulin injections, with 20 units administered at breakfast every day. The patient’s vital signs will also be included in his record: blood pressure of 140/90mmHg, respiratory rate of 16, and a heart rate of 77.
Depending on the specific condition of the patient, more details will follow. For example, if Mr. Vedder had had his diabetic foot amputated, his records will also reflect this, including all postoperative care given. All in all, Mr. Vedder’s medical record will serve as a blueprint that guides his doctor and other medical care providers. Without the record, Mr. Vedder’s health will be much harder to handle.
Significance of Essential Records
The significance of creating and maintaining essential records is summed up in the term itself; the records are essential to managing or preventing emergencies. When disaster strikes, such as a fire or an earthquake, an essential record known as an evacuation plan can help save lives. Payroll, another essential record, is crucial in the successful management of employee salaries.
In preserving culture and heritage, pictures of old buildings and structures serve as essential records. Among their many other uses, birth certificates help the government ensure that the right social security benefits go to the right recipients. Property titles aid in maintaining public order by establishing property ownership and avoiding conflicts.
While the above are specific scenarios that highlight essential records' significance, their true overall value is defined by their necessity during certain events or situations. And the more they can help resolve problems under certain conditions, the more essential they become.
Types of Essential Records
Although the term “essential records” has a specific established definition, it has a wide coverage that can be organized into at least five known types, including:
Records for emergency response (e.g., maps and building plans, emergency contact information, continuity of operations plan)
Records for continuing operations (e.g., prison records for purposes of determining parole eligibility, contracts, leases, and insurance policy coverage)
Records that protect public health, safety, property, and rights (e.g., medical records, marriage certificates, retirement)
Records that are too tedious and expensive to restore (tax records)
Records for community and family history documentation (e.g., The Constitution, town charter)
History of Essential Records
Back in the day, when “essential records” was not even a term, organizations did not have a concrete system for managing their record. Records were merely kept according to their owner’s individual needs and requirements. Once storing them became too inconvenient or expensive, the records were thrown away without any guidelines.
All this changed in the 19th century when the UK convened three government bodies (the Public Record Office in 1838, the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts in 1869, and Her Majesty’s Stationery Office in 1786) to institutionalize the management of essential records. This initiative by the UK government paved the way for developing modern essential records management systems being used today.
Essential Records vs. Essential Documents
Essential records are historical files that may not be edited or reconstructed and which come in various forms, such as paper, microfilm, or digital matter. These records may also be composed of written words, images, graphics, or any combination thereof, and are not only for documentation but also for other legal purposes, such as providing evidence. For instance, a patient’s medical record will prove that he was given a certain type of medication at a certain time, in case he claims otherwise and sues the hospital.
Contrarily, documents are pieces of written matter, whether handwritten or printed, structured or unstructured, and can be edited as needed and stored as paper or a digital file. They are considered ongoing files used in various transactions; for example, an online marketer’s list of email addresses of prospective clients or a doctor’s secretary’s list of patients waiting for their turn at the clinic.
In many cases, a document becomes a record once it has been finalized. For example, a written agreement between a lessor and a lessee is only a document until both have affixed their signatures. The contract becomes a record or evidence that both parties (lessor and lessee) have agreed on the specified terms related to the use of the former’s property by the latter.