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By being an early adopter of NARA’s strict facility guidelines, Diversified Information Technologies brings a new standard of document storage security to public- and private-sector clients.

By Tom Andel

Before 9/11, the major financial and insurance companies based in New York City and surrounding metropolitan areas might not have paid much attention to a firm trying to impress them with its higher standards of security for document storage. That’s why Diversified Information Technologies’ pre-9/11 strategy to adopt the National Archives and Record Administration's (NARA) facility standards has proven insightful.

Diversified was the first commercial vendor listed on the NARA website as having an approved center for the storage of federal records in compliance with the requirements of 36 CFR, part 1234 subpart K. This standard specifies expectations for facility perimeter, entry, and interior security, as well as for fire safety and suppression and environmental controls and structural requirements.

Now, financial and insurance companies are not only listening to Diversified’s security speech, but they’re coming back to Diversified with their own detailed visions of document security.

“Today a typical RFP is 40-50 pages long and the client is including many of the same requirements covered by NARA’s specification checklist,” says Michael Malkemes, Diversified’s director of building services. “It seems they’re taking NARA’s best practices for document storage and including some of those details in their RFP.”

Being able to meet those requirements is still a compelling competitive advantage for Diversified, Malkemes adds.

“It’s a very time and cost involved process to participate in the market for government records,” he explains. “So it’s a feather in our cap that four of our current locations are NARA approved, with others meeting the requirements and waiting for approval.”

Recent mandates that Government agencies and their contractors comply with updated NARA regulations for protecting federal documents have created that growing demand for secured information management and storage. Now any contractor that wants to do business with the Federal Government must show that its processes, people and facilities comply not only with NARA 36CFR, but with HIPAA, Sarbox, ISO 9001, and SAS 70 Type II. If the government wants those services, then so do financial, insurance, and healthcare providers.

How the strategy started

Diversified Information Technologies was founded in 1982, with headquarters in Scranton, PA. The company manages the complete document and information lifecycle and includes records management solutions for physical and electronic records storage, electronic mailroom processing, document imaging, consulting services, and print and electronic presentment.

The first Diversified site to achieve NARA certification was its Moosic, PA location. It first appeared on the NARA Central Registry of Approved Facilities website for the Storage of Federal Records in 2002. That was followed by sites in Delano, PA, Gordonsville, VA, and most recently in Jacksonville, FL.

But it was last year’s Federal Government mandate that all records storage sites be NARA approved that inspired Diversified to dedicate a group in its organization to government business. This represents significant progress considering the company’s early days.

“Twelve years ago we knew we wanted to have the best facilities, but we had to learn what to do to achieve that goal,” says Mike Balberchak, director of account development for Diversified. “We formed a committee with our existing customers in New York City, which included fire protection and security experts. We learned that if we wanted to work with the government that NARA certification would be the price of admission.”

Today, with Scott Byers as Diversified’s new president & CEO, the company is forming a strategy to carry it through a new decade. That includes raising the level of service not only to the government sector, but to the insurance, financial and healthcare industries, as well.

In February the company announced the acquisition of Bowman Enterprises, Inc., a document management services firm headquartered in Benson, NC. Bowman specializes in document imaging and management services in the healthcare and government sectors and brought to Diversified approximately 160 customers in the Southeastern U.S. Through both of these strategic acquisitions Diversified is expanding its footprint in the healthcare industry, its market presence in the Southeast, and is introducing new and expanded services to the market.

“The coming of national healthcare will require that healthcare providers get their records in order electronically,” explains Balberchak. “That’s where our acquisition of Bowman and ADS helps. They specialize in medical records. All healthcare organizations will have to be in compliance with electronic recordkeeping standards in the conversion of their documents. Many don’t yet have the wherewithal to get this done internally, so they’ll be looking to vendors like us to provide that solution.”

That kind of one-stop provider will be important as companies and organizations improve their business processes to be in compliance with mandates coming at them from government and from the private sector. Compliance never comes cheap, but Diversified is dedicating itself to helping clients reduce costs wherever possible.

Clients: multiplied and diversified

Diversified’s focus in the next few years will be to fill service gaps for its growing list of customers from Maine to Miami. The goal is to become the leader in providing complete document management solutions. The company’s new president and CEO, Scott Byers, has the credentials to make that happen.

He feels the company is now well positioned to convince government entities that Diversified can store and manage documents more cost effectively than they can—even at the high standards called for by NARA.

He’s also confident that private-sector customers will raise their service expectations as well—and recognizes Diversified as an early adopter of the new gold standard in document security and storage.

What NARA wants
The guidelines in the National Archives and Record Administration's (NARA) facility standards are written to keep documents safe from all contaminants. 36 CFR, Part 1234, Subpart K, Appendix B, contains specific requirements for the design of fire protection systems including sprinkler, alarm, and notification systems. It also calls for verification of a dependable and reliable water supply. All of these requirements must be reviewed and approved by a licensed Fire Protection Engineer.

NARA also specifies that a building’s walls, columns and floors be constructed with non-combustible materials and that multi-story facilities be designed or reviewed by both a licensed fire protection engineer and a civil/structural engineer.

To make sure water outside a facility stays outside, that facility must be built outside of any 100 year flood plain areas. Furthermore, the roof system must do its part to prevent water from entering the facility. That roof mustn’t support equipment mounted above records storage areas, and there should be no piping (with the exception of fire protection system piping) through records storage areas.

If records ever do get wet or contaminated, they must be stored in a separate storage area on a separate HVAC system.

To protect against rodent infestation, the records storage area must have an integrated pest management program. To protect against human infestation (thieves), it must be equipped with an anti-intrusion alarm system.

To prevent document racking systems from collapsing under full load they should be equipped with seismic bracing that meets applicable codes. If compact mobile shelving is used, there are specific requirements related to air circulation & fire-protection.

For records storage facilities established or converted after September 28, 2005, here are some additional do’s and don’ts:
• Don’t use motors over 1 HP in records storage areas.
• Don’t use high voltage equipment in records storage areas.
• Have back-up power to insure continuous service.
• Have positive air pressure in permanent records storage areas.

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