Last year at ARMA InfoCon 2020, Susan Cisco and I presented the results of our collective research published in Playbook for Responding to Pandemic-Related Records. This Playbook is the result of a collaboration of several industry professionals (the “Group”) who are concerned about records resulting from organizational responses to COVID-19. The Group, formed as the COVID-19 Records Research Group, sought to understand best practices for this influx of new records with the goal to develop a playbook that helps organizations prepare for managing pandemic-related records, information, and data.

Specifically, the Playbook presents action-oriented guidance on managing the lifecycle of pandemic-related records that organizations may create or acquire. It includes defining controls for the security, privacy, retention, and disposition of anticipated or existing pandemic-related records and the broader data concerns that surround them.

Fast forward a few short months, and the first legislation in the United States regarding COVID-19-specific records is already in effect as of January 1, 2021.

This reinforces that now, more than ever, it’s vital to know how to identify and track records generated as a result of the pandemic.

Read this post for three ways to use the Playbook for Responding to Pandemic-Related Records to ensure that you are and can remain compliant.


Get (and stay) ahead of the curve

Anticipating new record types is not a facet in most business continuity and/or disaster preparedness plans. Our research participants who contributed to this body of work noted how helpful the Playbook for Responding to Pandemic-Related Records would be in the event that another “once in a career” type event occurred that manifested new content types. 

The Playbook will allow us to quickly identify, evaluate and analyze our record-keeping response to the current pandemic and account for it in the construct of a mature records and information management program.” – Research Participant in the Commercial Banking Industry


The United States is currently experiencing an emphasis on privacy legislation and enforcement that will continue, if not increase, as we continue to move through and beyond the pandemic. Many pandemic records are likely to contain private and confidential information with prescribed privacy and retention requirements; therefore, the Group focused on defining retention periods first.   

This strategy reinforces the importance of the retention schedule’s position as the first line of defense for legal discovery and privacy compliance.  Research participants mentioned benchmarking as a valuable Playbook takeaway because it enables their organizations to compare their response to the pandemic with others and close any gaps.  

“This Playbook will provide a solid framework for talking through the information governance decisions and planning that will be required to incorporate the many records that will be created and retained as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic into a Records and Information Management Program.” – Research Participant in the Food Manufacturing Industry

Communication & Collaboration 

Finally, research participants suggested that facilitating communication and collaboration with other groups across an organization – such as HR, EHS, Facilities, and Legal – was another smart way to use the Playbook. The Playbook’s models and decision trees provide a structure for discussion with various stakeholders about the risks, plans, controls, monitoring, and recordkeeping, ensuring all pandemicrelated records are covered. Participants agreed that the Playbook would be helpful to develop communications for stakeholders. 

“It will be good to have straightforward advice on what front line teams like ESE and Facilities need to do with COVID-19 related records. Providing them clear, concise and considered advice simplifies the way we work, and this [the Playbook] is a great tool for that.”  – Research Participant in the Petroleum and Petroleum Products Industry


While Playbook for Responding to Pandemic-Related Records was initially created to deal with records associated with COVID-19, moving forward we are confident that the process and controls developed can help organizations better evaluate how to incorporate new records of all types and respond in an agile and efficient manner to the frequent changes most organizations experience. 

For a more in-depth exploration of how information management professionals can use the Playbook for Responding to Pandemic-Related Records, check out our recorded live webcast on this topic.