SCR Meeting in Houston

We met with the South Central Region’s RML staff and state emergency preparedness coordinators on May 5 in Houston! My apologies to Michelle and her wonderful staff and the state representatives for the delay in reporting on the toolkit–it is purely a result of a lot of time away from the office as we visit other offices and attend meetings. We leave for the MCR and PSR regions next week, which will be the last ports of call for us. I’ll send the full report to Michelle as soon as possible; for now, here are highlights.

The SCR meeting was held at the Houston Academy of Medicine (HAM), beginning with introductions of RML staff and their state coordinators. All states in the SCR were represented: Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. Marty Thompson (University of Oklahoma) is the chair of the Emergency Preparedness working group for GMR.

Dan’s presentation focused on the risks that exist for SCR, who are, along with SE/A, the “unfortunate experts,” when it comes to having weathered disasters, particularly hurricanes and tornadoes. Houston Academy of Medicine (HAM) experienced its own disaster when the library was flooded during hurricane Allison in June, 2001, resulting in many “lessons learned,” and the writing and publication of the excellent book, Disaster Planning: a How-to-do-It Manual for Librarians, co-authored by HAM librarian, Deborah Halsted, as well as Richard Jasper and Felicia Little.

After reviewing the 4 scenarios on which the response plan is based, there was discussion about the region’s experience after Katrina, particularly, as well as other incidents. Ethel Madden, from Louisiana, told about the resources that were most needed in the emergency medical shelters after Katrina, which were all point-of-care for the first 48 to 72 hours. Michelle mentioned NLM’s progress with the Emergency Access Initiative, which is very positive and will be an excellent resource. Ethel noted that internet access was not available for weeks or months in some areas after Katrina. Marty recommended talking with CDC, particularly with regard to resources they have already developed for emergency response; i.e. a laptop loaded with resources for dealing with infectious diseases, etc. in disaster areas without internet access.

Discussion following the presentation addressed the roles of the RML staff who are assigned to the specific states and clarifying of how the communication can take place, as well as the use of MOUs within the region, and how the consortium of the resource libraries in SCR will incorporate the plan, hopefully putting this in place at a meeting this summer. SCR is fortunate in that its MLA chapter encompasses the same states as its NN/LM region, so they communicate and meet more frequently than in some other regions. AMIGOS provides information and training in their region, an excellent possibility for training opportunities for network members. Michelle noted that some public libraries in the region are better prepared for disasters than the academic libraries, and would be interested in pursuing relationships with them to promote a teamwork approach within the region.

The group discussed MOU development during lunch. Dan noted that while MOUs are not legally binding, they do provide information about informal partnerships, such as services covered and people who agree to help. The consensus was that in the SCR, MOUs will not be an essential part of the plan, because they already have strong partnerships among libraries and other network members, and have experience helping each other during disasters. Deborah added that many academic libraries went off-site after Katrina and were up and running with their online resources and services long before they were able to re-occupy their buildings.

The SCR RML and EP work group will promote the plan through its Fall 2008 meetings, and is formulating ideas for other ways to market it, especially the 1-800-DEV-ROKS (ROKS without a C!) number, to all network members.

The afternoon meeting began with a Table Top Exercise, featuring Rachel Gyore (University of Arkansas) calling as the librarian who experienced the disaster, and Michelle accepting the call for the RML. The group worked well together, with University of Oklahoma serving as the back-up library and providing laptops for temporary use at University of Arkansas while their equipment was being recovered or replaced.

In conclusion, the group talked about goals for year 3, which include: establishing a workflow for the RML office in response to a disaster, looking at the existing training options and exploring other possibilities for training, have some goals written into the network goals for the coming year, continue to explore ideas for marketing the plan, spread the word about the help that is available to members.

The meeting ended with a consensus that there are many possibilities for getting the word out about the plan, and the group will explore options. They will also re-visit some of the post-Katrina stories, and review progress made to this point. The SCR is already strongly networked among its members, very aware of the potential dangers that exist for the region, and strongly motivated to spread the word about emergency preparedness and response, so they will no doubt accomplish great things!

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