Pandemic planning exercise

Yesterday, Tuesday, May 5, we convened a meeting at our library to review our pandemic plans and conduct a brief table-top exercise.  The meeting produced some excellent observations and insights, both for successes and things we need to work out.  The first half of the meeting was a review of our procedures, based the table (see below in the “Planning for Service Continuity During a Pandemic” post) from our library’s emergency preparedness plan.  All the “key players” attended, including:  the library’s emergency response coordinator, the library Director, IT manager, web development manager, business manager, head of reference services, collection development manager, database coordinator, ILL supervisor, and Circulation supervisor.  All these positions played roles in the planning and in the response exercise.  The scenario we used for the table-top exercise:  it is 3 PM on a Sunday afternoon, when the University decides to close all the libraries on campus to enact social-distancing measures.  The closure is intended to prevent the spread of influenza resulting from a pandemic.  What is done immediately?  What is done Monday morning?  Before beginning the discussion of procedures for this scenario, participants drew slips of paper from a bowl, which designated them as “sick” or “well.”  One-third of the participants were designated “sick,” and therefore did not play a role in the exercise.  This pointed out the need for back-up in certain key positions.

Some questions arose that might be helpful to others in the planning process, among them:

  • can you change the voice mail message on your library’s main phone from your home?  who has the authority and the access needed to do this?  who is the backup for that person?
  • who has current staff home phone number information?  is someone responsible for keeping the list upddated, and for distributing it?  should lists be given to everyone, or to select people?
  • do the appropriate library staff have access to the “Ask a Librarian” chat function from home?
  • do you need an official “voice” for providing information about the status of the library?  if so, will that person have access to communication channels, such as announcements on your web site?
  • can the person responsible for ILL/Document Delivery access resources needed to provide ILL requests to your patrons from home, i.e. is the required software installed on the home computer/laptop?
  • is there a provision for emergency access to print materials for affiliated patrons in the event of a patient-care emergency while the library is closed?
  • is there an institutional need for designating a way to account for time worked at home by library staff?  

Besides refining our procedures and identifying a few areas to be improved, everyone agreed that the meeting/exercise was an excellent way to keep emergency preparedness, and pandemic planning particularly, in our corporate awareness.

Great meeting with SCR

On Monday of this week, we met with NN/LM staff at the South Central Region’s office at the Houston Academy of Medicine at the Texas Medical Center.  Michelle Malizia, Associate Director, and her capable staff made the meeting a big success.  Also attending were SCR’s state coordinators for emergency preparedness (see photo below). 

Following an outstanding breakfast, the group introduced themselves and then heard an update from Dan about the progress of the NN/LM Emergency Preparedness & Response Project since last year when we visited Houston.  The remainder of the morning session contained the “train the trainer” session for the group about teaching the “10 Step Approach to Service Continuity Planning.”  The afternoon session consisted of a lively discussion of other issues to be addressed during this year, with many helpful comments and suggestions from SCR staff as well as the state coordinators.

We enjoyed seeing the SCR staff as well as all the state coordinators and hearing about activities in their region.  They maintain their close-knit network of information and support within the region, which is reinforced by the relative frequency of emergencies in the region due to hurricanes.

SCR Train the Trainer session

SCR Train the Trainer session

New template available for “10 Steps” Planning

In the interest of helping NN/LM members to put together a concrete plan based on the “10 Steps to Service Continuity” training, I’ve created a template that members can use to draw up a basic plan for their libraries or information centers.  It is attached to the “10 Steps to Service Continuity” page here on the toolkit (see the menu bar above) as a Word document.  Anyone is welcome to download it and customize it at they see fit.  I hope it will serve as a good starting point for us in trying to meet our goal of having plans in place, and that it will be especially helpful to smaller libraries, hospital libraries, or other entities who may not need a comprehensive disaster plan.

The template is designed to focus on service continuity, but it does include space for some personal safety and preservation information.  My goal was to keep the template on standard size paper (8 1/2 x 11), so that nothing special would be required for printing.  I introduced the template to the Tidewater Health Sciences Librarians group two weeks ago, and in discussing it, we realized that the template would be a good thing to complete, print and post in our work areas, especially in smaller libraries that are minimally staffed, or staffed part-time by volunteers who would profit by having the information close by in an emergency.

The 10 Steps template is an addition to the other ones available here and elsewhere, such as PReP, dPlan, and the customized PReP developed by Julie Page and Deborah Halsted (see the Disaster Plan Templates page, menu above), and isn’t intended to replace any of them.  Rather, it is intended to provide another option, given that no two institutions are alike, and needs for emergency planning vary accordingly.  One of this year’s initiatives for NN/LM will be to focus on best ways to help hospital libraries, and we hope that the 10 Steps template will be a good start.