This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
Ed Yeates Reporting40 million pages of signed acts compiled by notaries over three centuries are disintegrating inside the basement of the New Orleans Notarial Archives. So far, specialized crews trained to salvage the water soaked documents have not been able to get to them.
Destroyed or damaged records in many businesses along the gulf coast has corporations again focusing on "safe sites" away from their headquarters to store backup records.
The same surge in moving records to these safe sites seems to be occurring again, post Katrina, as happened in the weeks following 9-11. A private security vault, drilled into the center of a granite mountain in Little Cottonwood Canyon, holds backup microfilm, computer tapes and discs - documenting the very lifeblood of businesses.
If a catastrophic event takes their physical building down, securing these duplicate records can get the business up and running again within a couple of days.
James Nowa, Perpetual Storage Inc.: "And say your corporate office has been destroyed, then we can send those documents to the hot site which have computers and you're able to get back into business that way."
A lot has happened inside this vault since our last visit just after 9-11. There are now about 500 corporations storing a half million records inside this cave. Though there are many safe sites across the country, this one, operated by Perpetual Vaults is one of only four or five mountain vaults in the country. It even has plans to drill another chamber four times the size of this one if it runs out of room, which it could do in another five years.
In 1989 the Swiss came all the way to Utah to store 15-million dollars worth of gold in here. But now it's all records - the economic personalities of corporations, including five of the Fortune 500 companies.
New Government laws require recovery plans for corporate documents, even patient medical records. If you don't have a backup now and a disaster wipes them out?
James Nowa: "They're going after the CIO, the chief information officer, the CFO, the chief financial officer, and the CEO, the chief executive officer."
Fines and jail time, that's what these corporate heads now face if these records are lost, and why within these chambers, "safe sites" as they're called, they're preserved under the tightest security.