A new kind of disaster assistance

A new kind of disaster assistance

August 22nd, 2010 in Opinion Cartoons

In the wake of a disaster like a tornado, flood, hurricane or similar event, most people give little thought to the stabilization and recovery of vital public records and documents. That's understandable. Providing assistance to those injured or displaced by the event, safeguarding property and protecting infrastructure is and should be the first responsibility of public officials. That said, there is a concomitant need to act promptly as well to protect deeds, mortgages and a range of court documents regarding tax, adoption, marriage, birth and other records.

Doing so protects the health, property and rights of individuals and helps secure the framework that is necessary to the orderly operation of contemporary society. Unfortunately, many state and local agencies, public libraries and schools and other sites where vital records are stored are unprepared to deal with the aftermath of disaster. In Georgia that is likely to change soon.

State officials have signed a contract that will assist governments and public agencies and institutions in obtaining professional help in preserving and protecting vital records in the event of a disaster.

The state will provide a list of vetted firms qualified to do the delicate work of rescuing and then preserving water damaged papers, rusting hard drives, mold-infused documents and warped books. It also ensures that the recovery work will be done at prices established before a disaster, rather than following one when high demand might force prices to unrealistic levels. Local officials should no longer have to spend valuable time searching for qualified workers or haggling over a price while damage mounts.

Very few states have a contract such as the one signed by Georgia to deal with the aftermath of disaster. One hopes that there will be no need to implement its provisions. Sooner or later, though, calamity will strike. In that instance, Georgia will be better prepared than most states to deal with the aftermath.