The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has announced that survivors of disaster can now apply for federal assistance via smart phone. See the full press release for details. According to the release, this new tool is one aspect of FEMA’s initiative to make its service more readily available to all Americans, as well as to make use of technology to expedite providing services to the public following a presidential disaster declaration. Knowing about the smart phone feature may be helpful to librarians assisting people who need to contact FEMA but do not have computer access after a disaster.
For some interesting data about the tsunami that was generated by the recent earthquake off the coast of Chile, visit the NOAA Pacific Tsunami Warning web site that details the sequence of advisories and warnings. Even though Hawaii was fortunately spared the kind of devasting tsunami that came ashore in Indonesia a few years ago, the NOAA site shows that sea level did rise at the locations they measure in Hawaii, in places up to three feet above normal. Civil defense authorities in Hawaii acted on the tsunami warnings, successfully evacuating everyone from the areas at risk. While this is the kind of “drill” you’d rather not have, it undoubtedly provided some valuable lessons learned for everyone involved and will hopefully make the response to the next warning even more effective.
What would you do if hundreds of students suddenly swarmed your library? Take a look at this news video from December 10th.
Recently, there have been several stories in the news about emergencies or disasters that have befallen libraries, most notably the flooding in Louisville, KY, which devastated the lower level of the Louisville Free Public Library (story here), destroying “tens of thousands” of books, and several vehicles, including two bookmobiles.
Other stories include one about a public library in Scotch Plains, NJ, which was stuck by a car that veered off the street nearby and took out a wall in the children’s collection area (story here). Even though the incident happened while the library was open, no one inside the library was injured, and aside from the wall of the building and the shelving that was destroyed, even the collection escaped significant damage. The librarian was very grateful to the first responders from the fire department and police, as well as the public works personnel who helped after the emergency. The article noted that the library had installed tempered glass windows, which did not break on impact–a helpful thing to think about if your building is located close to a road.
In Fort Lauderdale, FL, the main public library sustained water damage last week when their overhead sprinkler system was being tested, accidentally releasing water that flowed down through an atrium to the lower level (story here). The variety of this particular spate of emergencies affecting libraries highlights the fact that even though we believe that preparedness activities are important, we really can’t anticipate everything! However, in each case, the library’s leadership and staff managed the situation well and coordinated with outside responders to help mitigate the effects. The Director of the Louisville Free Public Library, Craig Buthod, says their best lesson learned is to “hire good people,” commending his own staff as well as the mitigation contractor for their good work.
Fortunately for Hawaii, Tropical Storm Felicia, formerly Hurricane Felicia, has slowed in speed and lessened in intensity, but she is still expected to pass over the Hawaiian islands today, just missing the Big Island, but making landfall on the central islands of Oahu and Maui, according to the National Weather Service. Forecasters predict sustained winds of about 40 mph along with rain, but rainfall will not be as torrential as they originally thought. However, many schools, parks and beaches are already closed as the islands brace for the storm.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also cautions us (click here for the story) not to be lulled into complacency because of the perceived “slow start” to the Atlantic hurricane season, as the peak months for big storms, August and September, are just coming up. So check out those disaster plans supplies, both at work and at home (click here for NOAA’s hurricane preparedness advice), and keep an eye on the forecast!
Cologne’s six-story archives building collapsed at 2pm on Tuesday, March 3rd, burying in rubble manuscripts by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Here is an account of the incident from The TimesOnline:
“There was even less warning of the collapse of the building than would have been given during a nuclear attack. Workers on the rooftop heard a cracking noise and immediately alerted the 26 people using the archives at the time. Less than three minutes later later, the building was flat.”
Click here for pictures of the collapsed building.
Boston University’s online newspaper contains an article today about how the Galveston National Laboratory at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, TX weathered Hurricane Ike with flying colors, despite the beating taken by the island as a result of the storm. There is a really interesting account from their associate director of research, who said that “the positive outcome was no stroke of luck, but the result of wise engineering and a comprehensive emergency plan that includes a long-term weather-tracking strategy.” She also noted that “preparedness is attainable, and it works.”
At the University of Hawaii, roof repair work led to some major water leaking into their library. The account in the “Star Bulletin” today underlines how a quick response, based on excellent preparedness activities, can minimize damage and speed recovery. Based on their experiences with major flooding in 2004, the library has a well-developed disaster response team, who was actively watching for damage from the heavy rains, had the needed supplies on hand, knew what to do with wet materials and where to put them, and had a salvage company on site quickly to restore air quality and help with cleanup.
News reports of flooding:
It’s nice to hear that preparedness efforts really do pay off–a huge return on a relatively small investment!