Can You shred my wet documents?

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2015-07-27 14:07

Can You shred my wet documents?

We can all agree that storing your old documents and financial records in attics or basements is a risky proposition.  We realize that for economic and other space management reasons some companies and area residents cross their fingers and do just that. Well sadly and unfortunately for many companies their luck may run out with Hurricanes and winter weather conditions that brings in flood.  To be fair, Hurricane Sandy for example flooded places that have never seen water before.


What to do with wet boxes -The challenge is determining how and if wet paper records can be restored or disposed of properly. Record retention schedules will indicate what records need to be kept for legal reasons and what other documents need to be kept for business continuity reasons.  Also, it’s not a bad time to add that Disaster Recovery plan why we’re at it! When wet records cannot be salvaged and need to be destroyed, make sure to make a complete inventory of the records along with documentation noting the condition of the records, the date of destruction and the name of the service destroying the records.  At Neighborhood Parcel we believe that whenever possible, a business should have full documentation of the circumstances and decision-making process in the event that issues arise later.


OMG! Moldy Records - Mold from wet paper records is a problem, usually a few days before mold starts, but please act as quickly as possible… don’t wait.  Mold poses a health risk to the business’ employees and customers as well as the document destruction company’s employees handling the records. We suggest wet, mold-laden records be handled with extreme caution.  Certainly do not panic, but make sure to secure and stabilize the room(s) containing the wet records, whether you’re keeping them or not.  Once the source of any water has subsided to safe levels, reduce humidity and increase air circulation to reduce the spread of mold. The worst option is doing nothing. There are many potential problems leaving soaked records around to dry on their own. As far as restoration, the most effective way to restore water damaged documents is through 'true' freeze drying using a technigue called sublimation. Sublimation changes the frozen water in the documents (ice) to a vapor, bypassing the liquid state. This method also reduces the stains and odors the documents may have obtained. This can be a costly method of recovering your documents, but for non replaceable items it is usually worth the expense and the most effective solution.

Can I do this restoration myself - Yes, you can… especially if you have a small amount of wet boxes. First, make sure to remove all the paper documents out of the wet cardboard boxes.  Becareful picking up the wet boxes… not only are they heavy due to the wetness, but typically the bottoms will fall out.  Trash the boxes as they will no longer be good, even after they dry out. Next, you should remove all paper clips, metal fasteners and binders to help prevent any rust from forming.  Spread out the files on absorbent material that will remove moisture, and keep constant air flowing over the paper.  Turn the pages over every once in a while to assure even drying.  Once completely dry, rebox the documents into new dry cardboard boxes.


Our Recommendations - If you have a legal obligation to securely destroy confidential files such as patient records or credit reports, that obligation will still apply to you, even if the records got wet.  The laws regarding secure destruction do not get relaxed or lifted after a natural disaster.  We recommend that you proactively notify any relevant government agencies by Certified Mail of the need to destroy flood damaged records and if you have any questions, please consult your attorney for legal guidance about destroying records before their scheduled time.


If we will be shredding for you ahead of schedule, please have as much detail about what date ranges and type of documents are being destroyed, so that we can properly document the situation on your Certificate of Destruction.  This is for your own future protection.  Please contact us at (978)636-0301 if you need our help or advice with documenting, shredding, and properly disposing of your wet records.

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