Vital Records

Definition of a Vital Record

A Vital Record is recorded information, regardless of format (i.e., paper, photo, database, magnetic tape), that must be protected in the event of an emergency or disaster because of severe consequences to the office and the University as a whole if the record is lost or destroyed.

Vital records are records that will be needed anywhere from a few minutes to 24 hours after a disaster to get your office up and running again. They are records that, if lost or destroyed, would be both costly and time consuming to recreate - if they can be recreated at all. They can be active (currently used by the office) or inactive (in storage).

Vital Records are:

  • Vital to the function and mission of the University.
  • Essential for the continuous operation or reconstruction of any University owned buildings.
  • Necessary to establish or protect the legal or financial position of the University.
  • Necessary to protect and ensure the rights and interests of the employees and clients of the University.

Tips for identifying which records in your office may be vital are outlined in How do you Identify a Vital Record. Only a small percentage of your records will be vital; most will fall into one of the following three categories:

Essential Records - These are records that will be needed within 72 hours after an emergency and, although it may be costly and difficult, CAN be reconstructed or replaced from other sources.

Useful Records - These are records which can be easily replaced. The time and cost of reproducing or accessing these records would be minimal because of the ready availability of these records at other locations.

Non-Essential Records - These are records that are of little or no value to the office and probably should never have been retained. Examples would be store catalogs, brochures, extra forms, etc.

Individual offices need to complete an analysis of their records in order to identify under which categories their records will fall.

Vital Records: Categories and Examples

These are some general examples. The records in each office will vary depending on each office's specific functions. For the definition and retention period of the records listed below, please see the University Records Management Retention Schedule.

VITAL RECORDS - Official Copies of:

  • Administration Records for Grants /Contracts
  • Application for Internal Research Support Funds - Awarded
  • Bid Documents
  • Blueprints of Facilities
  • Board of Regents Minutes
  • Consent Forms - Adult and Minor
  • Contracts - Purchase, Lease or Rental
  • Deeds for University Owned Property
  • Endowment Fund Records
  • Equipment Inventory Reports (Physical Inventories)
  • General Ledgers
  • Human Subject Review Committee Applications - Awarded
  • Insurance policy information
  • Meeting Minutes
  • Organization Charts and Listings   
  • Patents and Trademarks
  • Payroll Folders
  • Personnel Folders
  • Policies and Procedures
  • Research Data
  • Research Protocols (Drug Development and Human Subjects)
  • Security Codes
  • Technical System Documentation
  • Transcripts

Important Records - Official Copies of:

  • Accreditation Documentation
  • Annual/ Monthly/ Quarterly Reports
  • Billing Source Documents
  • Current Calendars, Appointment Books, and Daily Schedules
  • Faculty Effort Certifications
  • Grade Appeals and Grievance Files

Non-Essential Records

  • Material that may be disposed of without a specific retention period, including:
  • Advertisements /Announcements
  • Phone messages
  • Requests for information - answered
  • Routing slips
  • Trade catalogs