Wishing All a Safe Holiday Season and a Happy New Year!

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A Call to Action

Last night I looked up and watched as four strangers applied splints to my arm and leg.  Another stranger applied pressure to my carotid artery to stem the bleeding.  They worked quickly and watched constantly for any changes in my condition.  I felt no pain throughout the process, as I was the volunteer victim during the final hands-on session of my eight-week CERT training course.  (CERT stands for Community Emergency Response Team, a component of Citizens Corps, which is administered by FEMA.  In the United States, there are over 1,100 community CERT programs.)  My “victim” experience gave me a deep appreciation of the value of citizen volunteer groups, as they are likely the ones to provide initial treatment in the event of large-scale casualty situation.

Librarians can bring many skills to the emergency planning community.  In CERT alone, there is a great need for database managers, newsletter writers, web page maintainers, social media specialists, and information providers at call centers.  I am a member of the Info Team, a group of volunteers that takes non-emergency calls whenever the EOC (Emergency Operations Center) has been activated.  An example of the type of call the Info Team would receive is someone asking about the availability of pharmacies following a disaster.  I’ve also volunteered to provide assistance with social media, such as Twitter.

I highly encourage all librarians to explore ways to take part in emergency preparedness and response activities in their communities or institution.  Go to the Citizen Corps website (URL: http://www.citizencorps.gov/) and do a zip code search in the box labeled Find Your Local Council to find contact information for area Citizen Corps organizations.  In addition, you can find other volunteer groups by going to the National Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters (URL: http://www.nvoad.org/states#sevend) and searching the Membership tab for your state.  Finally, if you want a higher level of training on providing access to information for emergency preparedness and response, check out the Disaster Information Specialization Program offered by the Medical Library Association and the National Library of Medicine (URL: http://www.mlanet.org/education/dis/).

Libraries and librarians are playing a greater role in emergency preparedness and response throughout our nation.  Emergency planners are recognizing our value and are working librarians and libraries into their planning strategies.  There is a place for each of us somewhere in those strategies.  All it takes is some time and commitment.  The rewards are immeasurable.


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Planning For the Next Service Disruption

Click on this URL (http://nnlm.gov/ep/disaster-plan-templates/) and then click on the link to the Service Continuity PReP above the photograph.  It will download in Word format to facilitate customization.

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Putting Us to the Test: Hurricane Sandy and Our Service Continuity Plan

Friday, October 26th:

We sent out an email to everyone on our Service Continuity Team asking for any changes to contact information and availability during the period of time Hurricane Sandy was predicted to affect the Central Virginia area.  Changes were made to our service continuity plan based on responses.

Sunday, October 28th:

University officials announce that classes are canceled for Monday and the clinics will be operating on a modified schedule.

Monday, October 29th:

10:30am:  We announce on the Library’s web page and Facebook that the Health Sciences Library will close at 7pm and that our after-hours area will open at that time.  We also activate our service continuity plan.  Our service continuity plan involves steps for keeping our core services and resources available from home.  These core services and resources include online resources, the proxy server, interlibrary loan (borrow), chat, reference email, and access to core textbooks.

Three staff are designated to handle access issues with online materials.  This provides redundancy if someone loses power.  Two staff are assigned to proxy issues and about four staff share chat/reference email.  Our ILL supervisor is the only one who can maintain ILL remotely, and we need power here at the library and her home for that to happen.

1:37pm: Lots of clouds but very little wind.  Rain and wind are suppose to kick in later this afternoon.

1:53pm: Hard rain begins to fall.  Wind is picking up.

Outside the Health Sciences Library at 1:53pm.

4:05pm: The SE/A RML in Baltimore will be closed tomorrow, and their “buddy” plan with PNR in Seattle has been activated.  The “buddy” plan involves forwarding all phone calls SE/A to Seattle.  This might come into play if SE/A libraries need to have their DOCLINE requests re-routed due to closures.

4:47pm: Two hours until Hurricane Sandy makes landfall on the New Jersey coast.  Currently, from what I can see as I look outside the library, we have rain with a good breeze.  Temperature has dropped to 44 degrees.  The last hour or so I’ve been going over power outage scenarios.

Tuesday, October 30th:

7:15am: Made it home safely at 8pm last night to power but no internet.  Still no internet this morning, so I came into work at 6:30 to check email and weather conditions.  Weather conditions this morning are a lot like they were last night: breezy with a light rain.

I updated our home page (we’re opening today at our regular time) and the library’s voicemail.  Time now to sort out the staffing situation.

1:07pm: Staffing has been worked out and we will be able to operate under our normal hours.  Our service continuity plan will remain in effect throughout the business day.

1:25pm: Our Head of Collection Development, working from home, notified library staff that he fixed an access problem for one of our online journals.

3:35pm: We will deactivate our service continuity plan today at 5pm.  Our Service Continuity Team will gather for an After Action Review on November 8th when we will talk about what worked as well as areas we need to improve.

Thursday, November 8th:

Our after-action review focused on communication issues.  Specifically, the best way to contact staff that the library is closed and that the Service Continuity Plan has been activated.  We had been relying on staff to contact the University’s incident notification telephone number, but, conceivably, there could be situations where staff are not aware that something has happened and therefore would not think to call that number.  While we consider alternatives, all departments may work out notification systems tailored to their staff.

In addition, we determined that we need to list additional staff on the Service Continuity Team, update our procedures for providing updates on our webpage, and add additional vendor contact information.

The Service Continuity Plan will be updated and distributed to team members by the end of next week.


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