Water is the origin of life on earth - but if unchecked, it may prove a huge threat to life and property, especially where documents are concerned.
Due to its material properties, paper is extremely vulnerable to humidity; in a best-case scenario, it will only suffer deformation and discolouration, but it might be damaged to a point where it dissolves and becomes unrecoverable. If the humid conditions endure, further damage may be caused by mould infestation that attack your documents and may present a health risk for your employees.
Running water at a turn of the tap is one of the key conveniences of modern life, but in an emergency such as with a burst pipe, it may cause tremendous damage.
Be it potable water lines or a sprinkler extinguishing system - if its integrity is breached, your archive may be inundated in a short space of time, causing considerable damage to your documents and possibly causing follow-up damage by mould infestation.
Occasionally, high groundwater levels may become an issue, too, usually manifesting itself by a damp room environment.
Many inner cities, especially those dating from the middle ages, find themselves close to rivers and creeks. In addition, subterranean water courses, sewage systems and ponds may be close at hand.
In case of heavy rains or thaw-induced river floods, these waters may break their bounds and cause large volumes of dirty and debris-laden water to inundate their surroundings, such as your archives.
If such an event is likely, be prepared in advance by creating barriers to stop the water - if your archive has already been flooded or if your defences were overwhelmed, you should act quickly to avoid the dirty water contaminating your documents and causing mould infestation.
In modern archive facilities, great care is taken to create an environment most favourable for the long-term storage of documents. Commonly, this involves climate control to keep humidity, temperature and lighting at optimal levels.
Older sites, especially those found in basements, do not feature these advantages - humidity and unsuitable temperatures enable thriving microbiological contamination such as mould spores.
In such facilities, the archive personnel must be constantly alert and act quickly once mould contamination is noticed.