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Generic Disaster Plan Workbook


Module 1: Disaster Preparedness and Prevention


Module 1 of the IELDRN Plan is used for assessing an institution's potential problems, current state of readiness, and ability to respond to an event. It lays the 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.

I. Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Plan Guidelines:

  1. Keep the Disaster Plan available at all appropriate locations. Make sure the staff is familiar with its contents and are trained to respond BEFORE the disaster.
  2. Identify and inspect several times a year all areas and equipment which may cause or be subject to a disaster.
  3. Update the supply inventory at least twice a year, noting in particular the supplies on hand and those which would have to be purchased in an emergency.
  4. Review the Disaster Plan regularly, updating as necessary any of the following:
    1. Names, addresses, and telephone numbers as necessary of any personnel, consultants, services, etc.
    2. Names of personnel assigned specific titles, such as Fire Warden, Recovery Director, or Evacuation Administrator.
    3. Emergency procedures.
    4. Location of supply rooms and local stores.
    5. The disaster plans of branch libraries.
    6. Floor plans and collection salvage priorities.
    7. Insurance coverage.
    8. List of past disasters.

II. Collections Salvage Priorities

A. Guidelines for Establishing Salvage Priorities

Priority for pack-out and salvage should be given to those records and collections that have information needed to establish or continue operations after a disaster; aid the recovery operations; and assist in fulfilling the requirements of the insurance company in order to file a claim.

In disasters where only a small amount of material has been affected it is possible to review the material item by item for recovery or discarding. Usually there is not enough time to do this review during a pack-out. Once the material is frozen it can be reviewed at a more leisurely pace. But it is far better to have some idea ahead of time which collections should be recovered first.

Don't try to prioritize item by item, do it by groups of materials. These are decisions that will be highly individual to each institution, but listed below are some guidelines that may aid in making those decisions.

  1. First priority should be given to the bibliographic records of the collection. For many libraries this is the shelf list, the card catalog, inventories, or increasingly, some type of magnetic storage device (tape, disc). Any computer storage devices (disks, tapes, etc.) should be backup regularly and the backup stored off-site.

    Also necessary will be staff and personnel records necessary to continue payroll and operations - if not duplicated by other departments in the organization. It is strongly recommended that these records be duplicated and stored off-site to prevent their irretrievable lose.

  2. When prioritizing collections the following should be kept in mind: Where is your emphasis in collecting? What is the greatest current need to support your institution's programs? (This usually points to reference collections, reserve collections, and certain current journals.) How difficult is the material to replace and/or how costly? (Special collections, archives, and foreign publications can be irreplaceable. Some items are replaceable but very costly.)
  3. It is also useful to note, in advance, items that should not be frozen (such as microfilms, glass plate negatives, and magnetic media) and items that should never be air-dried (glossy, coated paper; water soluble inks).
  4. Priority 1 would be the first items packed out unless they were NOT in danger, or, if it is impossible/ dangerous to get to them. Priority 2s would be salvaged next, with the same caveat regarding danger and accessibility. All other materials would be saved if possible, time and environmental conditions permitting.
  5. Mark the priorities on the floor maps and make sure they are known and understood by the salvage teams and local fire department.

B. Adjustment of Priorities

The collection priorities list is a guide but, because each disaster is unique, the Disaster Recovery Coordinator or Operations Director will consider the circumstances and limiting factors (time, access to materials, availability of resources, etc.) which may require deviations from the plan.

C. Salvage Priorities Forms

1. Salvage Priorities - Collections

Listed below are those portions of the collection to which salvage priorities have been assigned. Priority is based upon uniqueness of materials, replacement value, and ability to contribute to restoration of services, even at a minimal level.


Priority Ranking Dewey/LC Call Number Location Approx. No of Vols in Collection Special Notess


2. Salvage Priorities - Bibliographic Records

Listed below are the priorities for salvaging bibliographic records necessary to reestablish the integrity of the library collection. Priority ranking should be based upon the value of the records to recovery operations and the ability to contribute to restoration of services. Records which are duplicated elsewhere should be given lowest priority. Records may be stored in either hard copy or electronic format. Examples of such records are shelflist, card catalog, database of library holdings, circulation records, etc.


Priority Ranking Records Format Location Special Notes


3. Salvage Priorities - Administration Records

Listed below are the priorities for salvaging administrative records that are vital to recovery operations, including ongoing personnel costs. Priority should be given to those records whose loss will have serious financial or legal consequences for the institution. High priority must be given to protecting records required by insurance companies. Do not list records that are duplicated elsewhere, or can be easily replaced.


Priority Ranking Records Format Location Special Needs


III. Insurance Coverage

This document is an attempt to help libraries gather information to aid in understanding their insurance coverage. Once the information is gathered, the document should be transformed into one that states what is 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 that would usually be needed 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 and what these steps are should be clearly understood before the recovery process begins.

Remember to notify the insurance company as soon as possible when disaster strikes

  1. What is the replacement cost per book ___________ ? This should include the average price of a book and all processing costs. It should be revised every year to reflect inflation. (To find the replacement value of your collection multiply this figure by the number of volumes in the collection.)
  2. Find out how the library is insured and determine the policy's exclusions (see 6 below). Most institutions are self-insured. This means a certain amount of money must be held in reserve as bond for the insurance.
  3. Ask what can be done to reduce the premiums. Sometimes having a written disaster plan, installation of smoke and heat detectors, sprinkler systems, fire extinguishers, water detectors, and other safety equipment can significantly reduce premiums.
  4. Determine which risks are covered (water, fire, explosion, smoke, vandalism, riot civil commotion, aircraft, vehicles, theft). Are "Acts of God" (floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, windstorms, tsunamis) covered? Most policies will not cover earthquake damage but might cover damage caused by a quake (i.e., a fire caused by an earthquake). The most frequent cause of damage to library materials is water. Therefore, good coverage is vital especially for such perils as worn pipes bursting and sewers backing up.
  5. Have the insurer's permission in writing to begin salvage efforts immediately without waiting for a company representative. To do this, answer these questions in advance: what records does the insurer require______________? photographs ________? a copy of the shelflist or catalog cards ________________? an inventory of each item or just a numerical count ________________? Does an adjuster need to view the items before they can be removed from the site, or before any restoration or discarding _____________________?.
  6. What is the deductible for fire ________________ ? water damage _____________? theft or vandalism _________________? other _________? What is the maximum amount that can be claimed per occurrence _______________?
  7. For rare and valuable items a special policy (sometimes called a "fine arts insurance policy) covering each piece individually against all risks will be necessary. A list is compiled of the books and their specific declared value. This list must be updated every year.
  8. Find out what the requirements and liabilities are for workers helping with a pack-out whether they are staff or volunteers.
  9. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Association) funds are difficult to get. If you anticipate filing for such funds, file as soon as possible, document everything and take extensive pictures. Contact them at the Office of Disaster Assistance Programs, Washington, D.C. 20472.

IV. Security, Public Relations and 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.

A. Security

Phone numbers and other contact information for the library's security service and public relations office should be on file and updated regularly in the library's onsite disaster plan. These offices should be called immediately when a disaster occurs.

Disasters draw the media, the curious, the well-meaning, and the criminal. A library that has suffered disaster is usually a place of chaos and it is vulnerable to invasion by unwanted hordes. Security of the collections must be maintained and will need to be arranged almost immediately. If a library decides to accept volunteers to assist in a pack out, there must be a way set up to screen them (also for their ability to physically do the work) and make sure they are under the supervision of a staff member at all times. It is recommended that a security guard be posted at all entrances and exits to examine backpacks, purses, etc. Never let people you are unsure of work in areas where rare and valuable materials are stored.

B. Public Relations

One person and one person only should be designated to deal with the media. All staff should be instructed to refer any questions to this person. It would be useful if this person, or another designee, were also responsible for keeping staff informed on a regular basis of the state of recovery (see section on psychology).

C. Psychology

The psychological aspects of a disaster are often underestimated or totally overlooked. It is vital to keep staff informed by communicating regularly, have debriefing sessions and gripe sessions. Do things to keep the morale up. Members of the administration should be seen in the trenches--often. Provide lots of food and beverages. Keep working sessions in the stacks to shifts of two hours. Be sure people change jobs frequently. Have T-shirts and plastic cups printed with inspiring or silly messages.

The onsite disaster plan should contain contact information for the library's mental health facilities or counselors. Library personnel can experience a wide variety of effects from being involved with a disaster--having access to the expertise of mental health practitioners will be helpful.

For more information on emotional response to disaster see


V. General Housekeeping Guidelines

  1. Ensure that internal fire doors are kept closed.
  2. Ensure that emergency equipment (e.g. fire hoses, fire extinguishers, first-aid kits, rescue equipment) is always accessible and in good working order. Do not, under any circumstances, place furniture, display cases, coat-racks, etc... in front of a fire-hose cabinet, fire extinguisher, or manual box fire alarm system.
  3. Close drawers of file and storage cabinets when not in use.
  4. Do not leave exposed any materials, especially original documents or other archival material, on desks or tables overnight.
  5. Maintain a stable temperature in the library.
  6. Store valuable material in fireproof and dust-proof cabinets, preferably made of steel and treated with a non-corrosive, non-staining, and noncombustible paint.
  7. Ensure that books are not shelved too tightly. This measure not only prevents user damage to the bindings when books are pulled off the shelves, but also ensures that, if flooding occurs, the water will not cause the books to swell to the point where they burst from their shelving units. This applies to a lesser degree to other materials.
  8. Shelve materials so that they are set back a short distance from the edge. This precaution prevents user wear, the vertical spread of fire from one shelf to another, and books "walking off" shelves during minor earthquakes.
  9. Ban or confine smoking, eating and drinking to a designated area within the building, certainly not in the stacks, and preferably not near them.
  10. Ensure than appropriate standards (e.g. dust control and supplies storage) are established and met by janitorial staff. Doors may be weather-stripped to minimize entry of dust and insects.
  11. Identify and store cellulose nitrate-based film safely apart from the rest of the collection and have it copied at the earliest opportunity. In addition to its high combustibility, cellulose nitrate slowly decomposes under normal storage conditions, releasing gases harmful to collection materials, especially paper and film.

VI. Hazards Survey:

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

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

Hazards that are determined to be too expensive to fix (such as a new HVAC or a fire suppression system) will instead need to 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.

Check any hazards identified on a regular basis.

A. Climate:

  1. Is your area subject to extremes or to sudden changes in temperature and relative humidity?


  2. How soon after failure of your heating or cooling system will the climate in your building reach unacceptable levels?


  3. Which materials in your collections are most sensitive to the extremes and fluctuations in temperatures and relative humidity? Please list: ____________________________________________________


  4. your area subject to heavy or prolonged snow or rainfall? __________________________________________
  5. Is your area subject to severe storms? ____________

B. Topography:

  1. Is your building situated by a lake, river or ocean? ____________________________________________________
  2. Is the river tidal? _______________________________
  3. Is your basement below water level or water table level? ____________________________________________
  4. Is your building in an area prone to avalanches or landslides? _______________________________________

C. Seismic Stability:

  1. subject to earthquakes or volcanic action?____________________

D. Building Structure:

  1. What are the structural materials? Please list:



  2. Has the building a flat roof, skylights, roof access doors or internal roof drains? Please list: _______________________________________________


  3. Are collections stored in a basement ___________________________
  4. there visible cracks in the structure? Where: ______________________________________________________
  5. Are there water pipes running through collection areas? Where: ____________________________________________________


    Check areas listed in D. 2-5 after any rain, snow melt or seismic activity as well as routinely.

  6. Are there signs of rot or termites Where:



E. Hazardous Materials:

  1. Are hazardous materials such as gas cylinders, solvents, paints, etc., stored in the building in accordance with local regulations and safety standards? ________________________________________
  2. staff trained in the correct handling of hazardous materials and equipment? __________________________
  3. Have potential hazards such as poisonous chemicals been removed from collections? _____________________

F. Services and Utilities:

  1. Do you have a regular maintenance and inspection service for plumbing, electrical, fire detection, fire extinguishing and security systems? __________
  2. Do you have up-to-date plans and drawings of all of the above, and are duplicates stored safely elsewhere? Date of last revision: _________________
  3. Do you know which services (e.g. heating and other fuel sources, electricity, water, sewer, telephones, etc.) for which you are responsible? Please list: ____________________________________________________


  4. Have you up-to-date plans and drawings of their locations, including "turnoffs" and switches? ____________________________________________________
  5. Is there a back-up for these services? ____________
  6. Is your water pressure adequate for fighting fire? ____________

VII. Building Safety Checklists:

Building Safety Checklists are intended to be adapted to the library, printed off 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 IELDRN 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.

A. General

  1. * Locks secure & keys accounted for? ____________
  2. * Burglary alarms operable & connected to security service? ______________________________
  3. * Disaster manual and emergency phone numbers available at telephone operator's desk, reference desks, and other appropriate locations? ________________
  4. Last building inspection by fire marshal or other appropriate authority? _______________________
  5. Fire extinguishers. See Checklist D.
  6. * Fire alarms operable & connected to monitoring service? ____________________________
  7. * Smoke detectors operable? ___________ Connected to a monitoring service? __________
  8. Sprinkler systems operable? __________ Connected to a monitoring service? ___________
  9. Emergency lighting operable & available where needed? _____________________________________
  10. Transistor radios available & stocked, with spare batteries? ________ List locations: ____________



  11. First aid kits available & stocked? ________ List locations: ______________________________________


  12. Staff familiarized, by tour, with locations of fire extinguishers, emergency lights, radio, civil defense/tornado shelter, first aid kits, & how to reach members of the Disaster Action Team? __________
  13. Most recent fire drill? ______________________
  14. Most recent earthquake drill? __________________
  15. Most recent tornado drill? __________________
  16. * Most recent check of:
    1. Cutoff switches and valves:
      1. Electric _________________________________
      2. Gas __________________________________
      3. Water__________________________________
      4. Sprinkler system _________________________
    2. b. Water detectors _______________________________
    3. c. Sump pump or portable pump
  17. * Flashlights, with replacement batteries. _________ List locations:




  18. * CB radios. ________ List locations: ___________________




  19. * Handi/Talkies. ________ List locations: __________



  20. In-house emergency equipment and disaster supplies? Use Checklist B.
  21. * Clearly posted and updated emergency evacuation maps?



Summary of action needed: _________________________________________________________________





* Consider creating separate Checklists for these items (see Fire Extinguisher Checklist as an example) or adding them to "Safety Checklist for Area Inspections."

B. Safety Checklist for Area Inspections:

Print one a copy of this page for each area checked. Describe exact location of any problem noted.

LOCATION: ___________________________________Date_______________

  1. Exits or corridors, aisles, or stairwells blocked? _________
  2. Fire doors closed; alarms working properly? ___________
  3. Exit signs clearly visible? ___________________________
  4. Warped or sticking doors? ______________________________
  5. Dangerous chemicals or other materials improperly stored? _________________________________________________________
  6. Ceiling stains or other evidence of leaks? ___________________________________
  7. Plumbing okay? ____________________________________
  8. Air conditioning units checked for leaks? __________
  9. Worn exposed wiring? ______________________________
  10. Electrical equipment not grounded ________________
  11. Overloaded sockets _______________________________
  12. Electrical cords in dangerous position ____________
  13. Other potential tripping hazard ___________________
  14. Books or boxes dangerously piled or stored on the floor ____________
  15. Unsafe stacks (improperly balanced, braced, etc.) _________________
  16. Other unsafe conditions List: ___________________



Took the following actions to resolve problems: ______________________________________________________




Date fixed: ______________________


C. In-house Emergency Equipment and Disaster Supplies

The following list provides examples of the types of materials that should be on hand in case of an emergency. A blank worksheet is also provided.

Date Checked: ____________


Equipment Location Unit/Size Quantity
Barricade tape      
Book Trucks      
Boots, disposable      
Extension Cords      
Freezer Paper      
Gloves, latex      
Masks, dust      
Newsprint (blank)      
Plastic Garbage      
Paper Towels      
Plastic Sheeting      
Tape, plastic (3"-4"wide)      
Tape dispensers      


Supplies missing or depleted; reordered____________________________



Date reordered: _________________________

Date received: _________________________


D. Sample Checklist for Emergency Equipment


Date Checked: _______________


Location/Code Number Condition


Took the following action(s) to resolve problems: ___________________________________________________________


Outcome/Date fixed: ___________________________________________________________



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