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  Generic Disaster Plan


This generic disaster plan ("plan") is meant for use by libraries in need of a framework to assist them in writing their own disaster plan. The advantages of using word-processing software for such a plan are numerous. After tailoring the files to a particular institution, the plan can be easily revised and updated. In addition, forms to assist in inspection of the building and inventories of supplies and equipment can be printed off to take along on "walk through" and form a paper trail for fixing, replacing, ordering, etc.

The Plan also serves as a training document to familiarize staff with the actions they need to take during and immediately following a disaster. Last, and perhaps most importantly, is its use as an action document to guide people through the steps they must take to respond to and recover from a disaster.

The way the library fits into a larger organization plays a key roll in disaster planning. It may radically affect what can or must done and limit or increase the ability to respond to a disaster. There may already be an umbrella emergency plan that the library must tie into and become a subset of. Disaster Plans must be coordinated and compatible with these agencies and their plans.

This external environment (the city, county, or state government; the campus, or the school board) must be made an ally in disaster planning. They almost always have resources and expertise which can be called upon to help plan and use in a time of need IF the proper groundwork has been laid ahead of time.

Most manuals on disaster planning say the first step should to survey the building to identify potential sources of damage to the collection (leaky roofs, pipes over the stacks etc.). Actually, the first step is getting the consent, support and involvement of the right people.

Most anyone using this plan will find that there are often questions they cannot answer. Having knowledge of and access to the "right people" will aid in answering these questions.


For convenience in organization this disaster plan is divided into four units: Disaster Preparedness and Prevention, Disaster Response, Disaster Recovery Restoration Methods, and Disaster Recovery and Completion.

Preparedness are those actions that can be taken in advance to prevent or reduce damage to the collections. Response, those actions immediately following a destructive event which can mitigate damage and optimize recovery to reverse as much of the damage as possible 1and return the building and the collections to use.


Section I of the plan is used for assessing an institution's potential problems, current state of readiness, and ability to respond to an event. It lays the rough groundwork for developing information that will be needed during disaster response and recovery. Further, it provides forms to adapt to the individual needs of each library to perform surveys and maintenance checks of building hazards and emergency supplies and equipment. Regularly scheduled inspection of potential trouble sites and of disaster response supplies and equipment is a vital element of disaster preparedness and prevention.

Section II: Collection Salvage Priorities

This section discusses collection salvage priorities, and includes sections on priorities, adjustment of priorities and salvage prioritize forms for collections, bibliographic records and administration records.

Section III: Insurance Coverage

This section focuses on insurance coverage. This is an attempt to help library personnel gather information to aid in understanding their insurance coverage. The information should include the value of the collections, what is covered and what is not and how to file a claim. In addition, relevant information should be transferred to the appropriate parts of the Disaster Response Section of the Plan. Such information would usually be to contact the risk management or insurance agent immediately (add their name and number to the appropriate emergency contact list), and what kind of documentation is needed to file a claim. Not knowing the proper steps or ignoring them, may result in any claims being disallowed. The proper claim procedures should be clearly understood before the recovery process begins.

Section IV: Security, Public Relations, Psychology:

This section is an effort to caution libraries to plan ahead for these needs which are too often ignored but whose neglect can have serious consequences.

Section V: General Housekeeping Guidelines

Section VI: The Hazards Survey:

Use the Hazard Survey to identify and familiarize yourself with the hazards that exist in the region, surrounding vicinity and within the building, and their probability. You may need to contact your organization's facilitates manager and/or the architects and engineers staff, as well emergency service personnel (fire, police) for assistance in answering questions.

What to do with the information?

Once filled out, the Hazards Survey should be used to prepare a mitigation plan based on the vulnerabilities found and the priorities established in order of probabilities of incident.

Hazards that are determined to be too expensive to fix ( such as a new HVAC or a fire suppression system) will instead be monitored on a regular basis. Adapt the Hazards Survey to serve as an inspection form for those items that need monitoring. For example, if the roof needs replacement but funds cannot be found, staff must check for leaks during and after every rain--and keep plenty of plastic sheeting on hand. These short term solutions are costly in staff time and often inadequate and therefore costly in terms of loss of the collection.

Section VII: Building Safety Checklists:

Building Safety Checklists are intended to be adapted to the library, printed and filled out during regularly scheduled inspections. They are used to monitor safety hazards as well as maintain supplies and equipment used during an emergency.

Checklists may be designed by a general listing, by type of equipment (i.e. all fire extinguishers, all radios and flashlights), or by defined areas of the building (i.e. the 2nd floor, the Circulation Department, etc.). The Plan provides examples of each type. Depending upon your library's needs you may find it useful to move items from one checklist to another.

Unit II: Disaster Response:

This section of the Plan is designed to become a separate document during a disaster and to provide information that will be needed to respond to the event. Print this section on a color of paper that distinguishes it from the rest of the Disaster Plan. A library should distribute this section or at least parts of it to staff. At the very least the Emergency Contact Lists A and B ( Emergency Telephone Numbers and Disaster Team Contact List) and the Procedures (First Response) should be readily available and clearly understood by each staff member.

Unit III & IV: Disaster Recovery:

This section discusses the aftermath of disaster, i.e. Restoration Methods, Recovery and Completion, and Assessment and Revision. Every disaster plan must be established according to the requirements of the institution that it serves. In addition, the disaster plan should cover all types of disasters, big and small with clear instructions on what needs to be done. It is important to review the plan frequently in order to maintain current contact information, and to make any changes that are necessary.


  2005 by the California Preservation Program
Page last modified: August 2005
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