Despite making significant investments in fire protection facilities, it seems our records can still be at risk. Metrofile, a large commercial document storage vendor based in South Africa, suffered from a devastating fire last week at their Westmead, Pinetown facility. The fire started on Friday evening (11th October) with fire services still struggling to put out the blaze 24 hours later.
The building housed millions of documents from government, banking and private companies. This is the second fire at this particular facility in six years and is thought to have been started deliberately. Whilst this will cause huge financial damage to Metrofile, it will be the clients who will suffer most and will have to attempt to reconstruct their files, a process that could take several years. The company pointed out that only one of three warehouses was affected by the fire. In addition to fire destroying many documents, the incident also left some documents blowing across public areas in the vicinity, including bank slips, salary information and insurance documents belonging to clients.
Once again, this demonstrates one of the weaknesses in managing records in hard-copy; the creation and retention of back-up copies is often too costly. Many of the records destroyed in the fire are gone forever; a digital back-up could have preserved them.