Eccles Health Sciences Library and the Great Utah ShakeOut

Claire Hamasu, Associate Director, NN/LM MidContinental Region, shares her experiences during the Great Utah Shakeout drill, which lasted three days, from April 17th to 19th.  This is a great example of the value of incorporating drills into your emergency planning strategy.

On a cool, rainy, overcast morning among good natured grumbling about “why couldn’t we choose a different day to have an earthquake”  the Great Utah ShakeOut  shook the Eccles Health Sciences Library. The Great Utah ShakeOut  ( was an earthquake drill that tested the state’s emergency response systems and, for the responders, lasted three days, April 17-19, 2012. For those of us in the library it lasted 45 minutes, from the time the 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit at 10:15 am till we returned from the evacuation area at 11 am. The whole university participated, even construction workers building the new pharmacy building. In the health sciences center, only hospital employees providing direct patient care were exempt.

The official communication via text announcing the start of the drill didn’t reach everyone. There were library employees who did receive the message and communicated with others to “duck, cover and hold on.” As I was “cowering” under my desk, I used my cell phone to alert my designated contact in the RML to initiate the RML’s emergency plan. I let her know that we had just had an earthquake, I wasn’t able to provide the status of the rest of the staff, and the library would soon be evacuating.  The contact notified  the rest of the MCR staff about the drill in Utah. RML staff went through the pretend process of putting Eccles Health Sciences DOCLINE on hold and adding details to our emergency template message to go out on communication channels.

Library staff merged into the parade of colorful umbrellas walking to the designated evaluation area. I located the individuals reporting to me, noting that everyone had made it out of the library safely. I tried calling my contact to give her an update, but she couldn’t hear me. I sent her an email and later learned her computer was down so she didn’t receive the message.  

Some things we learned in the library. We needed to reinstitute a staff reporting system. People didn’t know who to notify that they had made it out safely. We have a collection of emergency reference books on a book truck. The triage location was set up down the road and a book truck is not a viable way to get the resources to the health care providers. We need a container that is totally enclosed and on wheels. The emergency contacts for libraries and museum meeting location needed to more centralized and closer to the emergency command center. If transportation and communication was down, this would reduce the distances people would have to walk and the environmental dangers they would encounter in order to produce a status report on the libraries and museums.

The RML reviews its emergency plan annually. Despite this regular review we discovered that much had changed with our communication tools. We need to revise how we use them, incorporating the new communications we now employ.  We also need to verify that staff is receiving messages from the disaster site.

Utah is overdue for its next big earthquake that happens every 30 years. Drills like this will ensure that we’re better prepared.

Claire Hamasu, Associate Director

NN/LM MidContinental Region

University of Utah Eccles Health Sciences Library

NN/LM Earthquake Summit Very Brief Report

Here is a very brief report of the NN/LM Earthquake Summit that was held on Friday, April 6th, at the University of California/San Francisco Library and Center for Knowledge Management.  A full report will be distributed by the end of April.

Dan Wilson, Coordinator for the NN/LM National Emergency Preparedness &   Response Initiative:  Dan gave a background of the NN/LM Emergency Preparedness & Response Initiative and then talked about the NN/LM EP&R Toolkit, one-page pocket response plan, training opportunities, and promotional activities.

Keith Knudsen, Deputy Director of the Earthquake Science Center for the U.S. Geological Survey:  Keith used many USGS maps and charts to illustrate earthquake risks for the Bay Area and the West Coast of the United States.

Monica Gowan, PhD Candidate, University of Canterbury: Monica illustrated the psychological aspects of an earthquake through stories and photographs of recent earthquakes in New Zealand.  

Siobhan Champ-Blackwell, Disaster Information Management Research Center (DIMRC) of the National Library of Medicine:  Siobhan gave an overview of NLM products available to first responders, such as WISER, REMM, and CHEMM, and talked about other NLM initiatives, including the Emergency Access Initiative and the Disaster Specialist continuing education program offered through the Medical Library Association. 

Randy Brawley, FEMA Preparedness Planning Analyst:  Randy spoke about the roles FEMA plays before, during, and after a disaster and offered many suggestions that librarians can use to play a greater role in disaster preparedness and response.

Roberto Lombardi, Facilities Director, San Francisco Public Library System:  Roberto provided an inside look into COOP Planning at the San Francisco Public Library System and offered many tips for improving library readiness.

Roberto Lombardi, Facilities Director, San Francisco Public Library

Earthquake Damage at McKeldin Library, Univ. of Maryland

Thanks to PJ Grier, SE/A Outreach/Access Coordinator, for sending along this link to photographs of earthquake damage sustained yesterday at the McKeldin Library at the University of Maryland.  Click on this URL ( to view a news report of the event from WTOP.



Reflections on Yesterday’s Earthquake

All is returning to normal around here after yesterday’s earthquake and aftershocks.  Fortunately, there have been no injury reports and minimal structural damage.   However, we shouldn’t take this event lightly.  Many folks were quite shaken, some terrified, as they tried to make sense of what was happening around them.  Up until now, we have had little reason to drill for an earthquake, so most people were left to decide for themselves whether to stay in a building or leave.  Moreover, cell phone service wasn’t working as the system was overloaded with calls to family and friends, creating an even greater level of anxiety.  In Charlottesville, all 911 emergency telephone lines temporarily went down and residence were asked to call an alternative number.  Fifty miles from here, two nuclear reactors were automatically taken offline, and on West Main Street, just a few blocks from the University Hospital, a gas leak closed the area to traffic for several hours.

The likelihood of another earthquake of this magnitude for this area is probably statistically slim.   However, other events, such as a shooter or a bombing, can occur suddenly and leave us in a similar state: confused and unable to act objectively.  This Mid-Atlantic earthquake gives us all a chance to pause and consider how we might respond to a sudden disastrous event; an event that will likely require clear thinking and competent leadership in order to avoid injuries and fatalities.

Mid-Atlantic Region 5.9 Earthquake

While our attention was focused on the potential impact of Hurricane Irene, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck the Mid-Atlantic region with its epicenter at Mineral, Virginia.  Mineral is about 35 miles from my location in Charlottesville.  I didn’t feel it because I was walking across campus to attend a meeting;  however, staff here at the UVA Health Sciences Library reported heavy shaking and an overall scary event.  Fortunately, I have heard no reports of any injuries and buildings are being checked for any structural damage.

We’re not accustomed to earthquakes of this magnitude, and many of us will be performing After Action Reviews in the near future to assess how we responded to the event and determine if any adjustments need to be made.

Added note: After I heard about the earthquake I used my cell phone to call our Service Desk and was unable to get through.  I tried a number of times with various numbers in the library and none of the calls went through.  Remember, you may not be able to use your cell phone following some kind of shared dangerous or potentially dangerous event like an earthquake when everyone is calling others to see if they are okay.

A recent news release from FEMA regarding cell phone usage:

“Due to overload of cell phone usage, there are reports of cell phone congestion.  We request that members of the public use email or text messages if possible to communicate for the next few hours, except in cases of emergency, so that emergency officials can continue to receive and respond to urgent calls. We encourage everyone in the affected areas to listen to the direction of their local officials. More information will be provided as it becomes available.”