By, Bert Auburn, vice president, government records management, Xerox

Hurricane season is still in its early stages, but already there have been ten roaring tropical storms to date. We often hear about the Atlantic hurricane season – which started early, but has been pretty quiet since Debby fizzled out. However, El Nino is heating up the Eastern Pacific, and with several large hurricanes already churning away over the ocean, it is the Pacific Coast that is expected to get more attention this year, from the storms and flooding that follows.

According to several articles, including this one from The Weather Channel, weather gurus are predicting that the Southwest United States – including cities like San Diego – could get hit. Pacific hurricanes usually swing out to sea and don’t typically strike land, but there is potential for flooding and the destruction it brings.

How can cities, like San Diego, prepare? Take a page from how Atlantic counterparts have prepared or picked up the pieces. For example, Vermont experienced firsthand how devastating a natural disaster can be when it got hit by Hurricane Irene in 2011. Catastrophic flooding caused the worst deluge the state had seen in 85 years. Roads, bridges and homes were washed away by torrential rains.

Structures and homes were not the only things affected. The vault in the town clerk’s office in Moretown, Vt. was under 5 feet of water and thousands of important documents were also nearly destroyed from flooding. Because of damage to the town’s land records – some of them centuries old – real estate transactions came to a standstill without proof of the property’s history. To get the town up and running again as well as develop safeguards for future disastrous events, Xerox is digitizing all of the town’s records and rehabbing those documents that were damaged in the flood.

Digitizing all records will make them easily searchable by both employees and the general public. By scanning the historical records they will be accessible on-line, providing a tremendous customer convenience as well as creating a crucial backup and disaster recovery copy for the original and irreplaceable information. This not only improves the way records are stored but also provides a more cost-effective safeguard for future disasters. There will be no need to sift through piles of damaged records. By taking advantage of modern technology counties are given a better chance at preserving our history against catastrophic loss.  

After

Before

As you can see from these images, tattered, hard-to-read documents can be saved. With a little innovation, documents are scanned into a JPEG image and improved to the point where they are readable.

Hurricanes rarely strike the Southwest United States, but they also are not typical in Vermont. Just because it isn’t typical, doesn’t mean it won’t happen. It takes just one storm to come ashore (not to mention the ensuing flooding) and create a disaster. Are you prepared?

Bert Auburn is Vice President of Government Records Management at Xerox, where he has been helping local governments simplify how work gets done for more than a decade. While he and his team are helping take care of government records, cities and counties have more time to take care of their citizens. When he isn’t making life better for tax payers, Bert is cheering on his Miami University Red Hawks.