Brooklyn Fire Fueled by Millions of Paper Documents

    Feb 25, 2015

    It rained medical records and other documents in Brooklyn a few weeks ago when a CitiStorage records storage facility was destroyed by fire. No lives were lost, reported the New York Times, but many lives were put on display as singed medical records, legal records, and other documents containing personal information littered the area surrounding the burning warehouse. 

    The blaze started early on Saturday, January 31, but by the time the New York Fire Department arrived the fire sprinklers had almost extinguished the fire; firefighters thought they finished the job. However, they were called back a few hours later to find the building being consumed by flames. Fueling the seven-alarm fire were hundreds of thousands of boxes containing records stored by the city’s Administration for Children’s Services, the Health and Hospitals Corp. (HHC), several local hospitals, and legal and financial services firms.

    While firefighters fought the fire, disaster recovery contractors were dispatched to try to collect the debris. When contacted the next day, the hospitals and city agencies reportedly played down the possibility that “reams of sensitive information had been thrown to the wind.”

    Information professionals who use or are considering using a service provider to store their organization’s records have a duty to evaluate whether that provider meets the industry standard for fire protection, NFPA 232: 2012 Standard for the Protection of Records, which was published by the National Fire Protection Association.

    ARMA International also has published related best practice guidance for a variety of storage methods, including:

    • Records Center Operations, 3rd Ed. (ARMA TR01-2011)
    • Guideline for Evaluating Offsite Records Storage Facilities
    • Guideline for Outsourcing Records Storage to the Cloud

    ARMA strongly recommends that organizations conduct onsite inspections of offsite records storage facilities before entering into a contract. Both Records Center Operations and Guideline for Evaluating Offsite Records Storage Facilities will be helpful in that evaluation. In fact, the latter includes electronic checklists organizations can customize and use as part of their request for information or request for proposal process.

    This may also be a time to review the organization’s overall vital records protection and disaster recovery programs to mitigate the impact of disastrous events such as that experienced in Brooklyn. The following publications from ARMA will assist in that process:

    • Vital Records Programs: Identifying, Managing, and Recovering Business-Critical Records (ANSI/ARMA 2010)
    • Evaluating and Mitigating Records and Information Risks
    • Emergency Management for Records and Information Programs, 2nd Ed.

    All of these ARMA publications can be purchased through ARMA’s online bookstore at

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