Essential Records Guide Updated

Our post on Tuesday reminded Federal agencies of the resources available to them to handle a records emergency. This remains especially relevant as Hurricane Florence makes landfall in North Carolina. We want to take this opportunity to highlight one of the resources mentioned in the post.

We are pleased to announce a new edition of NARA’s Essential Records Guide (August 2018), formerly known as the Vital Records Guide. The original Vital Records Guide was written in 1996 and had not been revised in the intervening 22 years. Obviously much has changed since the original publication, such as terminology. One clear example, “vital” is giving way to “essential” as the preferred term.

Other changes include:Image of the Cover of the revised Essential Records Guide

  • more information on modern formats such as electronic records;
  • lessons learned from recent disasters;
  • providing optional tools for use by agencies in managing their essential records;
  • replacing obsolete information;
  • downsizing the publication from 90 pages to 60 pages;
  • use of photos and illustrations; and
  • extensive use of links to citations, standards, useful websites, etc.

Perhaps the biggest change is this version of the Essential Records Guide now incorporates extensive Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) guidance on related content. The Guide serves as a comprehensive resource for Federal government essential records. If the content is not specifically incorporated into the publication, a link is provided to the applicable guidance.

The revised Guide is the result of a two-year NARA project that established an internal cross- departmental working group to determine the scope of work and an approach to re-organizing and updating the Guide. The Guide was widely reviewed by subject matter experts and ultimately by FEMA as well.

The Essential Records Guide is now available on our website. It is only available electronically.  Additionally, the Guide will shortly be posted on the FEMA  Continuity Resources Toolkit.

Please contact us at if you have questions, suggestions, or comments. We plan on updating and revising the Essential Records Guide on an annual basis.

One thought on “Essential Records Guide Updated

  1. Thanks! Also, consider making the link a little bigger than just the single generic word “website”, people read hundreds of web pages a day, so they are skimming by very quickly. My first instinct was to click the image of the guide to get to it – took me awhile to see the word “website” was even a link on my phone as the font doesn’t stand out that much.

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