Posted: Friday, August 24, 2012
THOMSON REUTERS E-RECORDING CAPABILITIES ALLOW COLORADO
COUNTY TO MAINTAIN OPERATIONS DURING FORCED
Wild Fires Require El Paso County Staff to
Operate at Satellite Offices
The Challenge: Evacuation as Fire Spreads
As the Waldo Canyon fire raged through the Pikes Peak area of
Colorado and threatened the El Paso County offices
in the summer of 2012, Recording Manager Sandy Hook realized the
office staff might need to move its operations elsewhere. "Early on
as the fires broke out, we were not in danger, but we knew the
situation could change," Hook said.
The fire eventually destroyed nearly 350 homes, making it the
most destructive wildfire in state history. It also burned more
than 18,000 acres and killed two residents. Estimates placed
property damage well in excess of $100 million.
On primary election night - June 26 - as the clerk and recorder
staffs worked into the evening, the local police department arrived
at the county offices and ordered an immediate evacuation.
"We had to vacate the building right away," Hook said. "As far as
continuing our e-recording services and assisting citizens with
documents they required, we did not have time to bring anything at
all with us."
The Solution: e-Recording Functionality Combined with
Fortunately for Hook and her staff, their recording solution -
Anthem from Thomson Reuters - enabled El Paso County to maintain
business continuity. The county deployed Anthem in 2004.
E-recording is a core functionality offered by Thomson Reuters
records management products.
At the time of initial deployment, El Paso County had only one
main office but in recent years has opened three satellite offices
for e-recording and processing documents. "Because it's Web-based,
the Thomson Reuters e-recording solution automatically lent itself
as a disaster recovery alternative as we opened our other offices,"
Hook said. "As long as our users can access the Internet, they can
work with our recorded property documents and other document images
as well as our indexing system."
During the evacuation due to the Waldo Canyon fires, Hook
dispersed her staff across the satellite offices, which all had
workstations and e-recording capabilities. The staff processed the
e-recordings as they normally would, and citizens visiting in
person were re-directed to other offices for customer service and
other document needs.
"I was also able to work from home," Hook added. "This was a key
capability as the line of fires had cut me off from travelling by
car to our other offices within a reasonable amount of time.
However, with remote access from my home office, I could still
review documents and answer questions over the phone and by
Thomson Reuters is a nationally-recognized leader and pioneer in
the area of e-recording solutions for clerk and recorder
organizations. The company's e-recording solution allows documents
to be submitted according to Property Records Industry Association
(PRIA) standards by any trusted submitter. Thomson Reuters is also
a long-standing PRIA member and works closely within the
organization to implement e-recording efficiencies and
With Thomson Reuters e-recording solutions, documents can also
be electronically received, recorded and confirmed through a
two-way interface. Title companies, escrow companies, attorneys,
banking institutions, government agencies and other entities can be
granted access as submitters-allowing them to create, sign, and
transmit a single document or a batch of documents to the county
"The automated exchange capability offered by Thomson Reuters
streamlines our document submission and indexing," Hook said. "It
also improves turn-around time and reduces costs for the county as
well as for document submitters."
Documents that El Paso County e-records include property
documents, liens, and judgments to create liens. The county also
records filings related to the Uniform Commercial Code, marriage
documents, plat maps and land surveys.
The deployment of the Thomson Reuters solution allowed El Paso
County to digitize its indexing system and copy images that
previously existed on microfilm. The real benefit of leveraging the
recording application as an integral part of a disaster recovery
solution occurred as a natural extension when the satellite offices
"We did not have to do anything special as far as formulating a
disaster recovery plan," Hook explained. "With the Web-based
e-recording capabilities we have through Thomson Reuters, it's
simply a matter of having employees report to a different office or
having them log on from home."
The county had already gone through sending employees to other
offices in cases where a satellite office or the home office needed
extra coverage when an employee was out sick or on vacation. The
process worked just as smoothly when Hook needed to reassign the
main office staff during the Waldo Canyon fires.
The transition from traditional "over-the-counter" recordings to
electronic submissions and processing was key in providing
uninterrupted services during this crisis. "We were also fortunate
in that nearly 70 percent of our images and indexing were recorded
digitally at that point," Hook said. "If we were still on our old
paper indexing and microfilm image systems, and if the fire had hit
our main building, we could have lost many important
The Benefits: Operational and Business
The fire and the need for El Paso County to evacuate its office
made the value of the Thomson Reuters e-recording solution hit
home. The county used to have to index recordings using the
original paper documents. And the capability to access those
records could have ended if the fire reached the county
Because of the online access through the Thomson Reuters
software, Hook's staff functioned near maximum efficiency for close
to a week away from the main office. "I was amazed at how seamless
we operated," Hook said. "We did not need any technical support,
and our users never missed a beat. We kept up with document
recording, marriage licenses and other basic citizen services."
Hook stresses the major benefits of e-recording and indexing as
many property document images possible - both from an operational
and a business continuity standpoint: "All counties have limited
resources and funding to e-record documents," Hook said. "But the
closer you can get to 100 percent, the more efficient the office
can operate, and the easier it will be to move operations off site
if a disaster strikes."
"We may be ahead of other counties in terms of the percentage of
documents we have digitized, and we may be one of the few that have
off-site offices we can operate in during a disaster," Hook added.
"Having those two capabilities gives us true business-continuity
Once the staff returned to the office when the extent of the
fire situation came under control, the Thomson Reuters system
continued to pay off for El Paso County as the demand increased for
property documents by citizens affected by the fires. Approximately
300 homes in the county were destroyed so citizens needed immediate
help with documents related to insurance/deeds.
"We previously had a separate system for images and a separate
system for indexing information without any integration between the
two," Hook said. "Consolidating both functions into the single
system through Anthem was a big plus, making it much easier and
faster to retrieve documents during peak-demand periods."