Why you don't store papers on the back stairs

According to a front-page story in The Bangkok Post citing Bangkok police as its source, a fire last Wednesday [Nov. 15, 2006] at one of Thailand's Social Security Office (SSO) buildings "started in a pile of documents near a fire escape" and "consumed some documents left on the staircases".

According to a front-page story in The Bangkok Post citing Bangkok police as its source, a fire last Wednesday [Nov. 15, 2006] at one of Thailand's Social Security Office (SSO) buildings "started in a pile of documents near a fire escape" and "consumed some documents left on the staircases".

This is the link to the cached copy of the Post's story, which had much more information in the print version that I read. The story is apparently no longer available on the Bangkok Post's web site.

The SSO is part of Thailand's Ministry of Labor. A statement on the Ministry of Labour's Web site says that while "some old documents" on six separate floors were burned, "the important documents were kept on the fourth floor but they were not ruined".

This explanation does not inspire confidence in the SSO's records management program, nor in the building's fire detection and suppression systems.

Initially, the Labour Minister insisted that no documents had been destroyed, but he was later contradicted by his Ministry's own statement.

That doesn't sound like a well-rehearsed crisis communication plan, either.

What was the business impact of the fire? That hasn't been disclosed publicly, and is unlikely to be. But the Ministry's statement is quite straightforward: that SSO office "covers 22,223 establishments, 579,403 insured workers and 3,809 [other] insured workers. About 66 percent of employers and employees usually come to pay their contributions at the office, or about 500-1,000 people per day on average. The amounts of contribution payments, 550 - 660 million baht [US$15 – 18 million] , are collected each month."

That sounds like a lot of potential business impact to me. I guess the loss of records at any government ministry in any country could have a "severe" impact on its business continuity, its citizen customers and its reputation.

Like many government agencies and companies, the SSO clearly needs both a vital records protection plan, and a crisis communication plan.

Here's some recent guidance on vital records protection on the Continuity Central Web site from Steve Holmes of U.K. storage company DeepStore. Get this: DeepStore's storage site is an underground salt mine. Be sure to watch the Flash animation when their site launches.

I wonder if there are any abandoned salt mines in Thailand.

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