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Archive for the ‘Earthquakes’ Category

How Muscle Memory May Someday Save Your Life

Monday, May 11th, 2015

Soon after the Mineral earthquake struck in the summer of 2011, I learned the importance of muscle memory. The magnitude 5.8 earthquake, considered Very Strong on the Mercalli Intensity Scale, shook and damaged buildings, shut down a nuclear power plant, overloaded some 911 call centers, and closed streets due to reported gas leaks. Life was disrupted that afternoon in Virginia. Indeed, millions of Virginians can recall exactly where they were at 01:51:04 on August 23, 2011. Ask ten of them how they responded to the quake, and you will likely get a variety of answers.

I work at the University of Virginia Health Sciences Library. At 01:51:04 on August 23rd, I was walking across Grounds to meet with a colleague (ironically, a native Californian) at Alderman Library, so I didn’t feel the earthquake. However, when I returned to my office, I learned that library staff responded in a variety of ways.  Some responded well, while others not so well. And since none of us had ever experienced an earthquake of this magnitude, a variety of responses would be expected, which is why developing muscle memory may someday save your life.

Building muscle memory involves performing repetitious actions to increase the likelihood of a predicted response. Without it, you are at risk following a traumatic event, as your mind may be too busy trying to figure out what just happened than helping you get out of harm’s way.

Performing a drill is the best way to develop muscle memory, which is why many states set aside a day each year for a statewide earthquake drill. Is an annual drill enough? The answer is yes if you know what three actions to take following an earthquake. (Answer: DROP, COVER, and HOLD ON.) If you didn’t know the answer, then there is no better time than now to drill. Survey your present environment. Where would you DROP to take COVER, and what would you HOLD ON to?

For further information about how to respond to an earthquake, see

Eccles Health Sciences Library and the Great Utah ShakeOut

Monday, May 14th, 2012

Claire Hamasu, Associate Director, NN/LM MidContinental Region, shares her experiences during the Great Utah Shakeout drill, which lasted three days, from April 17th to 19th.  This is a great example of the value of incorporating drills into your emergency planning strategy.

On a cool, rainy, overcast morning among good natured grumbling about “why couldn’t we choose a different day to have an earthquake”  the Great Utah ShakeOut  shook the Eccles Health Sciences Library. The Great Utah ShakeOut  ( was an earthquake drill that tested the state’s emergency response systems and, for the responders, lasted three days, April 17-19, 2012. For those of us in the library it lasted 45 minutes, from the time the 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit at 10:15 am till we returned from the evacuation area at 11 am. The whole university participated, even construction workers building the new pharmacy building. In the health sciences center, only hospital employees providing direct patient care were exempt.

The official communication via text announcing the start of the drill didn’t reach everyone. There were library employees who did receive the message and communicated with others to “duck, cover and hold on.” As I was “cowering” under my desk, I used my cell phone to alert my designated contact in the RML to initiate the RML’s emergency plan. I let her know that we had just had an earthquake, I wasn’t able to provide the status of the rest of the staff, and the library would soon be evacuating.  The contact notified  the rest of the MCR staff about the drill in Utah. RML staff went through the pretend process of putting Eccles Health Sciences DOCLINE on hold and adding details to our emergency template message to go out on communication channels.

Library staff merged into the parade of colorful umbrellas walking to the designated evaluation area. I located the individuals reporting to me, noting that everyone had made it out of the library safely. I tried calling my contact to give her an update, but she couldn’t hear me. I sent her an email and later learned her computer was down so she didn’t receive the message.  

Some things we learned in the library. We needed to reinstitute a staff reporting system. People didn’t know who to notify that they had made it out safely. We have a collection of emergency reference books on a book truck. The triage location was set up down the road and a book truck is not a viable way to get the resources to the health care providers. We need a container that is totally enclosed and on wheels. The emergency contacts for libraries and museum meeting location needed to more centralized and closer to the emergency command center. If transportation and communication was down, this would reduce the distances people would have to walk and the environmental dangers they would encounter in order to produce a status report on the libraries and museums.

The RML reviews its emergency plan annually. Despite this regular review we discovered that much had changed with our communication tools. We need to revise how we use them, incorporating the new communications we now employ.  We also need to verify that staff is receiving messages from the disaster site.

Utah is overdue for its next big earthquake that happens every 30 years. Drills like this will ensure that we’re better prepared.

Claire Hamasu, Associate Director

NN/LM MidContinental Region

University of Utah Eccles Health Sciences Library

NN/LM San Francisco Earthquake Summit Report

Friday, May 4th, 2012

Click on this URL ( to see the report from last month’s NN/LM San Francisco Earthquake Summit.  A special thanks to the speakers and to all attendees.  Thanks also to Susan Yowell for putting together this report.

NN/LM Earthquake Summit Very Brief Report

Monday, April 9th, 2012

Here is a very brief report of the NN/LM Earthquake Summit that was held on Friday, April 6th, at the University of California/San Francisco Library and Center for Knowledge Management.  A full report will be distributed by the end of April.

Dan Wilson, Coordinator for the NN/LM National Emergency Preparedness &   Response Initiative:  Dan gave a background of the NN/LM Emergency Preparedness & Response Initiative and then talked about the NN/LM EP&R Toolkit, one-page pocket response plan, training opportunities, and promotional activities.

Keith Knudsen, Deputy Director of the Earthquake Science Center for the U.S. Geological Survey:  Keith used many USGS maps and charts to illustrate earthquake risks for the Bay Area and the West Coast of the United States.

Monica Gowan, PhD Candidate, University of Canterbury: Monica illustrated the psychological aspects of an earthquake through stories and photographs of recent earthquakes in New Zealand.  

Siobhan Champ-Blackwell, Disaster Information Management Research Center (DIMRC) of the National Library of Medicine:  Siobhan gave an overview of NLM products available to first responders, such as WISER, REMM, and CHEMM, and talked about other NLM initiatives, including the Emergency Access Initiative and the Disaster Specialist continuing education program offered through the Medical Library Association. 

Randy Brawley, FEMA Preparedness Planning Analyst:  Randy spoke about the roles FEMA plays before, during, and after a disaster and offered many suggestions that librarians can use to play a greater role in disaster preparedness and response.

Roberto Lombardi, Facilities Director, San Francisco Public Library System:  Roberto provided an inside look into COOP Planning at the San Francisco Public Library System and offered many tips for improving library readiness.

Roberto Lombardi, Facilities Director, San Francisco Public Library