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Basics and FAQs

What is the lifecycle of a record?

The lifecycle of a record refers to its birth (creation), life (usefulness), and death (destruction).  Some records are lost/forgotten along the way and discovered later and others enjoy eternal life in the archives.

What is a record?

A record is information, regardless of media, made or received in connection with the transaction of public business.  The first and foremost statute for public records is Chapter 40.14 RCW Preservation and Destruction of Public Records, which was created in 1957.  This statute is the foundation for records management in the State of Washington.

RCW 40.14.010:     "Public records include any paper, correspondence, completed form, bound record book, photograph, film, sound recording, map, drawing, machine-readable material, compact disc meeting current industry ISO specifications, or other document, regardless of physical form or characteristics and including such copies thereof, that have been made by or received by an agency of the State of Washington in connection with the transaction of public business."

RCW 40.14.020:     "All public records shall be and remain the property of the state of Washington.  They shall be delivered by outgoing officials and employees to their successors and shall be preserved, stored, transfered, destroyed or disposed of, and otherwise managed, only in accordance to the provisions of this chapter."

Who is responsible for public records?

The short answer is everyone!  Public records created in connection with the transaction of public business, belong to the State of Washington, not to the employee who created them.

What is Records Retention Management and how does Records Retention Management work?

Records retention management is the systematic control and the capturing, classifying and ongoing management of records for their entire lifecycle.  It is knowing what to keep, how long to keep it, and when you can get rid of it lawfully.  Records retention management is based on the Records Series Concept.  Its two primary principles include: 1) Records inventory and appraisal and 2) Records scheduling.

What is a Record Series?

A record series is a primary set of related records, performing a specific function, which is used and filed as a unit.  This record series is stored or destroyed as a unit.  A record series may consist of a single type of form or a number of different types of documents.

Why should our department conduct a records inventory?

To locate, identify and describe all agency records series, regardless of physical form.  It is mandated in RCW 40.14.

How will a records inventory be a benefit?

  • Defines a record series
  • Determines the record series value and retention
  • Identifies inactive records that can be stored in a more cost-effective manner or those that have no retention value
  • Identifies those records that require additional protection and security
  • Allows the development of accurate records retention schedules

What are the basic steps involved with an inventory?

First, describe the general function and overall content of each records series.

Next, identify:

  • physical format
  • location
  • current volumn
  • accumulation rate
  • frequency of use
  • inclusive dates
  • primary copy or duplicate copies

Third, contact the Records Retention Manager to determine records retention and disposition.

What are inactive records?

Records that are infrequently accessed and could be moved to the State Records Center to save storage costs.

What are essential records?

Essential records are those records deemed vital to the continuation of your business operation; needed in an emergency and for the reestablishment of normal operations after any such emergency.  Protection of essential records may be by vaulting, planned or natural dispersal of copies, or any other method approved by the state archviist.

When can I destroy records?

After you have submitted a Records Destruction Notice and it has been approved by the Records Retention Manager.  To do so, simply contact the Records Retention Manager either by phone or email to begin the process.  You will be guided step by step through the entire process.

 Is there any time that I would not want to destroy records that have been approved for destruction?

Yes.  Records should not be destroyed when there is a pending legal action or audit that could possibly involve those records!  Should this occur, affected departments will be notified by the Records Retention Manager.

Why should our department develop and update a records retention schedule?

  • Documents the Records Life Cycle
  • Documents an agency's legal business practice
  • Provides legal authority to destroy public records

What is a cut-off?

The cut-off is a point in time (or event) that signifies the end of the active, current phase and the beginning of the inactive retention period of a records series.  The cut-off date is the official start of the retention period.  The State Records Committee and the agency together choose the cut-off. 

The Cut-off + Total Retention = Disposal Date.  There are two general types of cut-offs.


  • CY (Calendar Year)
  • FY (Fiscal Year)
  • EOB (End Of Biennium)
  • MO (Monthly)
  • QTR (Quarterly)


  • ACR (Action On Claim Resolved)
  • FPOC (Final Payment On Contract)
  • TOL (Termination Of Lease)
  • TOE (Termination Of Employment)
  • TOC (Termination Of Contract)
  • LPRI (Last Piece Of Equipment Removed From Inventory)
  • LRID (Last Record Item Destroyed)
  • US (Until Superseded)

What is a DAN Number?

DAN is the Disposition Authority Number.  Below are examples of DANs.

Agency Unique DAN

97-01-45532 (Rev 3)  (Year, month sebsequent number, revision number)   Revision number indicates the number of ammendments made to the original records series.

State General Schedule DAN

GS 03001 (Section number 03, Series number 001).

What should I do after I perform an inventory of my department's records?

Step 1:

Review the title and description

Is it already listed in the State or EWU General Schedule?

If Yes, is the series a primary or secondary copy?

If the series is found to be a secondary copy or administrative materials with no retention value, do they still need to be scheduled before destroying?

From GS: "The following records retention schedules reflect the retention and disposition of the primary record regardless of media.

Copies (regardless of media), used for specific legal, fiscal or administrative purposes may be either retained using the retention for the primary copy or scheduled separately if a different retention is required."

"Copies of these documents preserved only for convenience of reference or informational purposes may be discarded when no longer needed." (Use GS 50)

Step 2:

The series is not in the General Schedule

Is there an existing unique/specific schedule?

If Yes, is the series a primary or secondary copy?

Does the existing schedule accurately reflect what you are doing for business?

(Administrative, fiscal or legal purposes)

Step 3:

Amend/Create the records retention schedule for your department. 

Contact the Records Retention Manager to complete this task with complete instruction and assistance.

Step 4:

The Records Retention Manager submits all revised or new records retention schedules to the State Records Management Office for action by the State Records Committee.

1. The Records Retention Manager submits the form to the state

2. The form is submitted to the Records Committee by the Records Management Office

3. The State Records Committee approves or sends the form back to the Records Manager for further work

4. The Records Retention Manager distributes approved schedules internally for agency use

What are some Records Retention Management Compliance Strategies that our departments should use?

Inventory your holdings annually

Ensure records retention schedules reflect the business processes/plans of the department

Only use approved records retention schedules as your legal authority to retain and dispose of public records

Remember: State approved records retention schedules hold up in a court of law!

What is the State Records Center used for?

Long term storage

Records not accessed frequently, if at all

Paper only - It is not a controlled (temperature or humidity) environment

What can the State Records Center do for me?

Can have your agency Records Retention Manager have individual files retrieved with speedy delivery to you

Will re-file records for you with the help from your Records Retention Manager

Will pick up boxes from EWU campus and deliver to storage facility

Safe, secure records storage

Records legally remain yours

Records disposal

What kind of records should be sent to the State Records Center?



Not needed the same day (Unless you want to drive to Tumwater!)

How do I send records to the State Records Center?

1. Use the retention schedule to prepare transmittal and box content list

2. Box the records - contact the University Records Retention Manager to receive archival boxes, be sure to assemble the box correctly!

3. Email transmittal to the Records Retention Manager for review

4. Affix box labels and Records Retention Manager will affix barcodes

5. Records Center processes transmittal

6. Boxes are picked up and stored either at the university storage locations or the State Records Storage facility

How should I box records to be transmitted to the State Records Center or the on-campus storage facility?

Use State Archive boxes for documents to be stored long-term (provided by the Records Retention Manager) and use bankers boxes (or similarly sized sturdy boxes with lids) for documents to be stored for short amount of time until their disposition.  Note: recycled paper boxes are usually not sturdy enough boxes.

Assemble boxes correctly

Organize files in each box in logical order

Position files facing the front of each box (the label end)

Leave room for growth or pulling files

Include a box content list in each box, either taped to the inside of the lid or laying on top of the files

Try to place only one series in a box or two at most

Only place records with similar disposal dates in a box

Make sure the lid closes easily

Have your Records Retention Manager contact the Records Center regarding odd sized materials

What is a transmittal?

Transmittals are shipping lists of boxes for records center storage that are completed by the Records Retention Manager.  They document:

Who owns the record

How long to keep them

What the records are

The appropriate method of disposition

What are Washington State Archives and What do they do?

"The Washington State Archives is a public trust collected and kept for the benefit of all citizens.  It is the responsibility of all employees of state government to assist in securing the heritage of Washington State through the preservation of the documents which shape our history."

What is the difference between the State Records Center and the State Archives?

They are at separate locations and have two entirely separate purposes.  The Records Center provides low cost off-site storage to state agencies, the agencies retain legal custody of their documents.  When records have met agency retention requirements and are designated "Archival", agencies transfer legal custody of the record to the State Archives for historical preservation and public research.

Records have overrun our office.  Where do I start?

1. Do a complete records inventory

2. Obtain the current records retention schedule for your office from the Records Retention Manager

3. Match the records to the schedule

4. Check the cut-off dates

5. Calculate disposal dates

6. Fill out the Records Transmittal forms and Records Destruction forms and email them to the Records Retention Manager for review and approval

7. Work with the Records Retention Manager to transfer archival records to the archives/storage and dispose of non-archival records that are past their retention period

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