Susan’s Suggestions for Pain-free Disaster Planning

 

Suggestion #14:  Communication information.  The heart of your disaster plan will be your communication procedures and information.  Thinking through the process and gathering the needed information ahead of time can save valuable moments in an emergency. 

 

You might create a summary page to begin your Communication section that includes:

  • a protocol for communication:  a telephone tree and/or the voice mail message on your main incoming phone
  • instructions about how communication to the media will be handled
  • information about other sources of information, such as the institution’s web page and local TV and radio stations
  •  

Following the summary page, you can add the following, most of which probably already exist, perhaps in your Administration department, or with whomever handles your human resources and financial management:

  • a list of all work and home phone numbers and addresses for staff  (including a notice that all home contact information for staff is confidential, and cannot be shared with anyone outside the library)
  • a list of phone numbers for important contact people or departments outside your library, such as your facilities management, environmental services, housekeeping, etc.
  • a list of contact information for your most important vendors, such as publishers
  • contact information for other libraries in your region that might be called upon for support in an emergency
  •  

Susan’s Suggestions for Pain-free Disaster Planning

Suggestion #13: Collection recovery procedures. Your library probably already has a document that specifies how and by whom your collections will be salvaged in the event of damage from a disaster. If so, ask that a copy be sent to you for inclusion in the plan. If not, now is the time! Depending on your situation, it may be you who is responsible, or there may another person in your organization who is responsible. If you are starting from scratch, check the internet for some valuable guidance, including SoliNET (“Contents of a Disaster Plan,” SoliNET Preservation Services Leaflet, and the Library of Congress– Library of Congress, Preservation, “Emergency Preparedness for Library of Congress Collections.”) There is a wealth of information, virtually something for everyone, available. Most libraries own at least several books on the topic. You can borrow from much information that is free, and then add the information specific to your organization, such as names of point people, how to contact them, lists of recovery companies, etc.

Whether you are including an existing document or creating a new one, keep in mind that all supplies mentioned in the recovery procedures need to be on hand before the disaster strikes (sponges, buckets, rubber gloves, dust masks, paper towels, etc.). Add them to your list of Disaster Supplies if you don’t already own them, and make sure that whoever orders your office supplies is notified about the need.

Susan’s Suggestions for Pain-free Disaster Planning

Suggestion #13: Collection recovery procedures.  Your library probably already has a document that specifies how and by whom your collections will be salvaged in the event of damage from a disaster. If so, ask that a copy be sent to you for inclusion in the plan. If not, now is the time! Depending on your situation, it may be you who is responsible, or there may another person in your organization who is responsible. If you are starting from scratch, check the internet for some valuable guidance, including SoliNET (“Contents of a Disaster Plan,” SoliNET Preservation Services Leaflet, and the Library of Congress (Library of Congress, Preservation, “Emergency Preparedness for Library of Congress Collections.” There is a wealth of information, virtually something for everyone, available. Most libraries own at least several books on the topic. You can borrow from much information that is free, and then add the information specific to your organization, such as names of point people, how to contact them, lists of recovery companies, etc.

Whether you are including an existing document or creating a new one, keep in mind that all supplies mentioned in the recovery procedures need to be on hand before the disaster strikes (sponges, buckets, rubber gloves, dust masks, paper towels, etc.). Add them to your list of Disaster Supplies if you don’t already own them, and make sure that whoever orders your office supplies is notified about the need.

Susan’s Suggestions for Pain-free Disaster Planning

Suggestion #12:  Observe, inquire, document, follow-up.  There’s nothing like an actual emergency situation to make you think through how well your response procedures work.  In the summer of 2005, our area experienced a severe thunderstorm one afternoon that caused tornado-like damage in our area.  The wind was strong enough to drive sheets of water into our Historical Collections area around the edges of a door that was closed and locked, and the power went off and stayed off for hours.  The next day, reports came in from all departments about problems they had encountered, such as not having emergency lighting in staff areas, no flashlights in the dark areas, not being able to lock doors with magnetic locks when we closed early, since the power was off.  These problems engendered a more active follow-up, superseding the normal Reporting procedure due to its widespread nature.  As a “reality check,” it was a blessing in disguise, because it pointed out many areas in which we needed to make improvements, but did not cause any injury or serious harm.  So take advantage of any incidents your library experiences, and get as much information as possible from people who were on the scene.  

Susan’s Suggestions for Pain-free Disaster Planning

Suggestion #12:  Observe, inquire, document, follow-up.  There’s nothing like an actual emergency situation to make you think through how well your response procedures work.  In the summer of 2005, our area experienced a severe thunderstorm one afternoon that caused tornado-like damage in our area.  The wind was strong enough to drive sheets of water into our Historical Collections area around the edges of a door that was closed and locked, and the power went off and stayed off for hours.  The next day, reports came in from all departments about problems they had encountered, such as not having emergency lighting in staff areas, no flashlights in the dark areas, not being able to lock doors with magnetic locks when we closed early, since the power was off.  These problems engendered a more active follow-up, superseding the normal Reporting procedure due to its widespread nature.  As a “reality check,” it was a blessing in disguise, because it pointed out many areas in which we needed to make improvements, but did not cause any injury or serious harm.  So take advantage of any incidents your library experiences, and get as much information as possible from people who were on the scene.  

Susan’s Suggestions for Pain-free Disaster Planning

Suggestion #11:  Reporting.  An essential part of maintaining and improving your plan is to get as much information about every incident as possible, once the dust has settled.  Set up a section in your plan for Reporting, specifying the people who should be notified, and by whom, as well as what information they will need to provide follow-up.

 

You can devise a form which will help your first-responders know what information they should provide (see an example in the UVa plan linked to the “Sample Disaster Plans” tab above).  Reporting is most helpful if the chain of command in your library is notified simultaneously, such as by an email to the group (Emergency Response Coordinator to department heads to the manager of your facility and to your Director, for instance).  This way, if a key person in the communication chain is absent, the other members will still be informed about the incident and the follow-up.

Susan’s Suggestions for Pain-free Disaster Planning

Suggestion #11:  Reporting.  An essential part of maintaining and improving your plan is to get as much information about every incident as possible, once the dust has settled.  Set up a section in your plan for Reporting, specifying the people who should be notified, and by whom, as well as what information they will need to provide follow-up.

 

You can devise a form which will help your first-responders know what information they should provide (see an example in the UVa plan, linked to the “Sample Disaster Plan” tab above).  Reporting is most helpful if the chain of command in your library is notified simultaneously, such as by an email to the group (Emergency Response Coordinator to department heads to the manager of your facility and to your Director, for instance).  This way, if a key person in the communication chain is absent, the other members will still be informed about the incident and the follow-up.