Federal Records Management

Authority to Destroy Contaminated Records Constituting a Menace to Health, Life, or Property under Specific Conditions

This is generally referred to as emergency disposal of Federal records. NARA approval to destroy the contaminated records must be obtained prior to their destruction. 44 USC 3310 and 36 CFR 1229.10 state that when the Archivist and the head of the agency that has custody of the records jointly determine that the records are a continuing menace to human health or life or to property, the Archivist shall eliminate the menace immediately by any method the Archivist considers necessary.

When an agency identifies Federal records that pose a continuing menace to human health, life, or property, the Senior Agency Official for Records Management (SAORM) or Agency Records Officer (ARO) or other designee must immediately notify NARA by email at rm.communications@nara.gov. The notice should provide NARA with specific information regarding the damaged records such as:

  • A description of the records,
  • Their location and quantity,
  • The nature of the menace,
  • Dates of records (if known),
  • Office maintaining damaged records,
  • A statement of exact circumstances surrounding the damage to the records, and
  • When appropriate include details of the actions taken to salvage, retrieve, or reconstruct the records, and a statement addressing the safeguards established to prevent any further loss of documentation.

If NARA determinations that the records must be destroyed, NARA will notify the agency of the approval to immediately destroy the records. If NARA does not agree that the menace must be eliminated by destruction of the records, NARA will advise the agency on remedial action to address the menace.