Fires and flooding are currently causing many folks to evacuate their homes in areas of Texas and along the Susquehanna River in New York and Pennsylvania. (The flood level at my hometown, Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, which sits along the Susquehanna, is expected to crest tomorrow morning near the record level set back in 1972 by Hurricane Agnes.) Anxiety, the need for information, and a strong desire for things to return to normal, often accompany displaced families. As libraries continue to build service continuity plans and become aware of the many roles they can play in a disaster situation, the emotional impact of disasters on communities will be lessened.
It’s been 25 years since the historic Los Angeles Public Library fire, which occurred on April 29, 1986. See an article about it here: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/04/los-angeles-public-library-fire.html. As the article notes, over 400,000 items were destroyed and many, many more were damaged by smoke and water. Other reports note that everyone was evacuated safely from the building–the initial alarm sounded at 10:52 AM. It took hundreds of firefighters and supporting resources from around the area to suppress the fire; the report from the Los Angeles Fire Department’s Historical Society, cited in the article, notes that the fire was declared a “knock down” at 6:30 PM. The fire was started by an arsonist in one of the stacks areas of the library. The Library re-opened to the public in October of 1993.
When we teach about risk assessment, we mention book drops as potential targets for arsonists. Here’s a story about a fire started in a book drop at the Portsmouth Public Library in Portsmouth, Virginia:
A bag of popcorn burning in a microwave at the Kansas State University Hale Library in Manhattan, Kansas, set off the library’s sprinkler system a couple of months ago. As Rebecca Brown, Kansas Outreach and Technology Liaison (NN/LM MCR), stated in an email message, “a good example of a not-so-obvious cause of a disaster.” Thanks to Char Simser and Renee Gates for permission to post these pictures.
A fire recently destroyed the library at the Columbia International University in Columbia, South Carolina. According to reports, over 15,000 books were destroyed, some dating back to the 1700s. Officials believe the cause of the fire was electrical. Click here for a report of the fire from WLTX.com.
Check out the latest new feature of the Toolkit! Scroll down past the Resources section of the right side menu bar to find a list of links to the maps that Dan has used in his training classes on service continuity. The maps are helpful for risk assessment for all regions–they add a larger picture to the very localized knowledge that most of us have about what has happened or is likely to happen in our areas. The maps in the “Risk Assessment Maps & Charts” section cover incidents of severe weather, earthquakes, wildfires, chemical and nuclear power plans, flood plains, tornadoes, among others.
This past Friday night around 8:00PM, my family and I heard a fire truck and an ambulance head past our house. We live on a busy street, so we paid little attention. However, additional fire trucks and ambulances kept going by. Sensing that something big was happening, my younger daughter and I put on our coats and headed up the sidewalk in the direction of the rescue vehicles. Over the trees, we could see thick, white smoke billowing from the townhouses about a quarter of a mile from our house. As we got closer (well out of the way of the responders, of course), we could see yellow flames shooting up from the end unit of one of the townhouses. The unit was completely engulfed in flames. A horrible sight to witness. Tragically, we read the next morning that someone had perished in the fire.
Having two children at home, I spent a lot of time the next day reading about fire safety. (See firesafety.gov.) Most of what I read emphasized that a home fire safety plan should show two ways out of every room. On Saturday night we went over the evacuation routes for everyone in the house from every room in the house and determined a place to meet following an evacuation.
Take a look at your evacuation routes at work. Are there places along those routes that someone could get trapped by a fire? If so, revise that evacuation route. Always look for two ways out.