All public agencies, including University of Wisconsin institutions, are obliged to develop a program for protecting their essential, or vital records.
Vital records are those records which are considered essential to the ongoing operations of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and would be necessary to the effective resumption of UWM activities in case of disaster. Vital records, if lost or destroyed, would seriously disrupt our activities or would place the University in a condition of legal or financial jeopardy. Such records may pertain to the overall functioning of the University, or to the functioning of individual units.
Some examples of UWM vital records include:
- Student admission records
- Student academic records
- Faculty and staff personnel files
- UWM contracts, leases, and land deeds
- Engineering blueprints of UWM buildings and facilities
- Student and staff medical records
- Promissory notes for student loans
- Faculty and staff payroll records
UWM campus units are charged with the primary responsibility for keeping their own vital records current, secure, and accessible when necessary. Campus units should review the records for which they are responsible and determine which, if any, are vital to their programs or to the University as a whole.
These records should be stored in a secure location and responsible staff should be aware of this location and be able to access these records in case of emergency. Vital records should be protected as much as possible from potential fire or water damage. Vital records in electronic format should be periodically backed up and the backup copies stored separately from the original records. Backup copies of any vital record are a good idea.
Finally, campus units should make sure that they are in compliance with existing records retention schedules that cover vital records. Many vital records contain confidential information. It is useful to manage these records separately from other records throughout their lifecycle.