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Generic Disaster Plan Workbook


Module 2: Disaster Response

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This module is designed to become a separate document during a disaster and provide all the information needed to respond to the event. It should be printed on a color of paper that distinguishes it from the rest of the Disaster Plan. A library may also want to disseminate 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.


A. Emergency Telephone Numbers

It is necessary to maintain a list of telephone numbers for emergency services. The list could look as follows or see Disaster Plan Workshop for other examples.


Police Dept.    
Fire Dept.    
Facilities Mngmt    
Health Dept.    
Poison Control    



It is the responsibility of the person first observing the disaster to contact the appropriate emergency service (SEE: EMERGENCY TELEPHONE NUMBERS list) to respond to the emergency; then call ___________________ at: ________________ hm: _____________ and a member of the Disaster Team. NEVER PUT YOURSELF IN JEOPARDY.

(A Disaster Team should consist of people who are assigned and trained to deal with a disaster of any kind, flood, fire, earthquake, etc. A chain of command should be designated in a specific order and a typical list could look like this.)

Disaster Team? [Call in order given until you reach someone.]


Operations Director      
Recovery Coordinator      
Facilities Manager      
Risk Manager/Insurance      
Dept. Head      
Public Relations/Communications      
Team Leader      



Computer Specialist      
Engineer, Structural      
Insurance Agent      
Janitorial Service      
Legal Advisor      
Pest Control      
Telephone Co.      
Deep Freeze Facility      
Vacuum or Freeze drying facility      



Earthquake Fire Flooding


A. Emergency Instruction in Case of EARTHQUAKE

Follow instructions given by [name of local agency]

  1. During shaking:
    1. Remain where you are.
    2. If you are indoors, take cover under a desk, heavy table, or stand in a doorway, hallway or by a wall.
    3. Move away from glass and falling objects.
    4. If you are outdoors, move away from power poles or lines, lamp posts and tall buildings.
  2. After the shaking: Abide by local guidelines, or follow instructions given by local authorities.
  3. When you have, or are given, access to the library:
    1. Check for fire or fire damage.
    2. Check for flooding or water damage.
    3. Look for fallen materials.
  4. Report damage to the person(s) listed on the DISASTER TEAM CONTACT LIST. Follow instruction given.
B. Emergency Instructions in Case of FIRE
  1. Activate the ALARM, unless the fire is small and can easily be controlled. Evacuate the area.
  2. Call the Fire Department. (911)
  3. Fight the fire ONLY IF:
    1. You know how.
    2. The fire is small.
    3. Confined to the area where it started.
    4. You have a way out.
    5. You can work with your back to the exit.
    6. You have the right type of extinguisher.
    7. You feel confident that you can operate it effectively.
  4. DO NOT fight the fire if:
    1. You have any doubts about fighting it.
    2. It is spreading beyond the area where it started.
    3. It could block your escape route.
  5. After you have taken the above steps, use your DISASTER TEAM CONTACT LIST to notify the appropriate people.
  6. When you have, or are given, access to the building after the fire:
    1. Look for water damaged materials.
    2. Look for smoke, soot, dirt on library materials.
    3. Look for fallen materials.
  7. Report damage to the person(s) listed on the DISASTER TEAM CONTACT LIST. Follow instructions given.

For water damage there is less than 48 hours to take action

For other types of damage there is "all the time in the world to ... make evaluative judgment about restoration". (Hilda Bohem)

That is why library disaster response plans mainly address the issue of water damage.

C. Emergency Instructions in Case of FLOODING or WATER DAMAGE:

If you are the first person to notice or detect water damage to library materials;
if you are the first person to enter the library, a flooded area of the library,
accessing wet materials after a major disaster:

  1. DO NOT touch or step into standing water. It could be electrified.
  2. DO NOT touch a person who has been electrocuted.
  3. Turn off, or ask Building Maintenance [phone ] to turn off the source of water, if it is possible.
  4. DO NOT TOUCH OR MOVE wet books or other library materials.
  5. Contact the Disaster Team following instructions given on the DISASTER TEAM CONTACT LIST. Follow instructions given.
  6. TURN OFF HEAT in the building.
  7. TURN ON AIR CONDITIONING, even in winter, if possible.
    or ask building maintenance [phone]
    or ask security [phone] to do so.
  8. OPEN DOORS and WINDOWS to create maximum air flow.
  9. USE FANS and DEHUMIDIFIERS to create air currents if electrical facilities are operational.

    The extent and the source of the flooding will dictate if Public Safety [phone] must be notified and if water or electricity must be turned OFF/ON.

  10. While waiting for Disaster Recovery Personnel:
    1. Get plastic sheets to cover materials under running water.
    2. Paper towels to absorb (don't wipe) water on shelves or books.
    3. Mops and pails for clean up. (See IN-HOUSE EMERGENCY EQUIPMENT AND DISASTER SUPPLIES list.
    4. Remove library materials from the floor if they are dry.
    5. If the [name of Recovery Coordinator or Operations Director] or an alternate is, or will soon be, available to assume responsibilities, wait. Otherwise, proceed as described on page

In any size disaster it is likely that staff will not be allowed back into the building or into the damaged area until it has been inspected and declared safe by fire or safety officials. Be sure a structural engineer inspects the building following strong seismic activity. The time this takes may be considerable but much can be done by the Disaster Team to prepare for recovery operations so that time is not wasted.

  1. If not already done, assemble the Disaster Team. Set up the Command Center. This may be a temporary location until you are allowed back into the facility. The Command Center is the recovery headquarters. It must have electricity, phones and typewriters or word processing capability. A copier and fax would also be extremely useful.
  2. Stabilize the environment and effect repairs. If you have not been allowed back into the building it will be hard to know what exactly will be needed but some assumptions will need to be made and the appropriate staff and services alerted (plumbers, carpenters, electricians, roofers, window repair, etc.). Once back in the facility, immediately identify and fix water, gas and sewer leaks. Arrange to have any standing water mopped up (take proper precautions if water has any possibility of being contaminated or electrified). Lower air temperature as much as possible.
  3. Ensure workers' safety. Will staff need hard hats, masks, gloves, rubber boots to be able to work? Call for caterers, water delivery and portable toilets as needed.
  4. Decide where to locate the Staging Area. This will require a place accessible to large trucks to offload supplies and on-load the damaged books. It should be as near as possible to disaster area.
    1. You will need tables or other work surfaces. You will need tables or other work surfaces.
    2. Have supplies (boxes and freezer paper, set up on a paper spool to tear off) delivered close to the area.
    3. Observe safety precautions for workers, take security measures for materials, or, request assistance from (name and phone # of library's health and safety officer) and from (name and phone # of library's security agency) if circumstances, extent of project or value of materials, warrant it.
  5. Organize staff. Assign or reaffirm responsibilities of workers.
    1. Review procedures with Team Leaders and inform them of the priorities and arrangements.
    2. Assign helpers to groups according to skill or experience.
    3. Divide the work among groups: searchers/ transporters of wet materials, and wrappers/ boxers. Transfer workers from one task to another as necessary to avoid exhaustion and stress.
    4. Inform workers to whom to refer all questions and media inquiries.
  6. Use this time to contact the insurance company or risk manager, FEMA security personnel, professional conservator(s), vendors, suppliers, freezer facilities, and recovery companies to put them on alert.
  7. Determine what needs to be done to file an insurance claim. (Refer to the Disaster Preparedness and Prevention section of this Plan or insert instructions in this section.)
  1. What has been damaged?
    1. Books, paper files, audio and video tapes must be salvaged/ treated within 48 hours.
    2. Microforms can wait a maximum of 3 days. (Keep them wet?)
    3. Computer disks and art works require specialized attention.
  2. Where are the damaged materials? Use floor plans. The floor plans show the location of collections for the purpose of identifying priority materials.
  3. How many items have been damaged?
    1. Library staff and facilities can salvage [number] items locally without outside assistance.
    2. Library staff and facilities can pack out [number] items locally without outside assistance.
    3. Outside help is needed if more than [number] items require some form of treatment.
  4. How wet are the materials?
    1. Submerged paper will not develop mold.
    2. Wet and covered with debris. (Cleaning and salvage, or packing will depend on number of items.)
    3. Wet and tightly packed books on shelves develop mold more slowly.
    4. Wet and loosely stacked books are more susceptible to molding. (Salvage or packing will depend on number and on time wet.)
  5. How long have items been wet?
    1. Books and paper materials, less than 48 hours?
    2. If more than 48 hours consider mold treatment.
    3. Black and white film, less than 3 days?
    4. If more than 3 days consult: [photographic specialist].
    5. Colored film, less than 48 hours?
    6. If more than 48 hours consult: [photographic specialist].

Based upon the ASSESSMENT OF DAMAGE, determine type and amount of supplies, equipment and labor you will need.

  1. Can the disaster be handled with the resources at hand?
    1. Bring in an outside consultant? See CONSULTANTS CONTACT LIST.
    2. Contract with a disaster recovery business? See SUPPLIES AND SUPPLIERS LIST and CONSULTANTS CONTACT LIST.
  2. Will any materials need to be frozen until they can be treated? See SUPPLIES AND SUPPLIERS LIST.
  3. Are the Collections Salvage Priorities previously set still appropriate? What should be the first area cleared?
  4. How many people are needed to get the work done? As needed, call for assistance giving dress code and meeting point:
    1. Disaster Recovery personnel, and other library staff as needed for in-house salvage of materials.
    2. Service-providers for pack-out.
    3. Neighboring libraries or volunteers to assist in a major disaster.
  5. Determine what kind and amount of supplies needed and
    1. Retrieve from in-house containers.
    2. Request from institutional or network storage facilities. [Contact person or Appendix [___]]
    3. Order from commercial vendors. See SUPPLIES AND SUPPLIERS LIST.
    4. Appendix [__]: Add your institution's Open purchase order which can be duplicated for use emergencies.
  6. How and where should the books be packed? In the aisles? transported by book truck to a packing area(s)? Wrap with freezer paper or not?
  7. Pack-out: This section details one possible way to divide labor to accomplish removing materials from the building. Items may also be packed in the aisles and not wrapped in freezer paper.
  8. Materials:
    1. Searchers/transporters:
      1. After the clean up operation remove all the wet books from the shelves and place them on trucks.
      2. Look on top and bottom shelves first, if water has dripped down from the ceiling.
      3. When full, wheel the trucks to the staging area.
      4. Do not attempt to remove mud, to open, or to separate ?leaves off of wet books.
      5. Do not leave any books to dray out by themselves
    2. Wrappers/boxers:
      1. Wrap volumes in freezer paper, slick side toward the book, without folding in the head and tail ends of the paper.
      2. Place the wrapped books side by side in boxes, spine edge down.
      3. Fill the box one layer deep only.
      4. Load boxes onto trucks and deliver to the freezing facility as soon as possible.
      5. Do not stack boxes more than 3 high.
  9. Photographic Materials:
    1. Place photos, negatives, films, microforms in plastic garbage cans with cold clean water and ship to reprocessor.
    2. Deliver to reprocessor within 48 hours for color and 72 hours for black and white.
    3. Remove from the water what cannot be treated within the 48 and 72 hour limits, and arrange for blast or rapid freezing.

VI. SUGGESTED APPENDICES (To be added by each library)

Floor maps Salvage Priorities Consultants Contact List Supplies & Supply List Emergency Purchase Order Form Volunteer Sign-up G. Network Information


Appendix A: FLOOR MAPS

A current set number of your library's floor maps should be included with the disaster plan. Such plans should have all ranges with call numbers and salvage priorities marked on them, as well as the location of emergency equipment and exits. The maps will be invaluable during a response and recovery operation.

They are useful directing firemen and other emergency responders and informing them as to the most important areas to save first. During assessment, the maps should have the damaged areas clearly marked in order plan strategy and deploy personnel.


See Unit 1


A list should be maintained of organizations and services which could be called upon as necessary.

See also Conservation OnLine's Disaster page and SILDRN's Disaster Supplies Vendor Directory


See for example: SILDRN Disaster Response Supply Sources

1. Index of Headings Used in a Disaster Supplies List

Compiled from LAPNET'S Disaster Suppliers List. The entire list is available in either paper format or on diskette in Word Perfect 5.1. Contact Chris Coleman, Preservation Officer, University of California Los Angeles (see Consultant List for complete address). Cost of the list with updates in 1993 was $15.00.

Barricade Tape
blast drying (see Drying)
Blotting Paper
Buckets (Rubber)
butcher paper (see Freezer Wrap)
Caution Wet Floor Signs
cold storage (see Freezer Space)
emergency lights (see Lighting)
Extension Cords
Face Masks
folding tables (see Tables)
food (see Catering)
freeze drying (see Drying)
Freezer Space
Freezer Wrap
Garbage Cans
Hard Hats
insect infestation (see Freezing; Fumigation)
Keep Out Signs
Lysol Spray
masking tape (see Tape)
Moisture Meters
mold/mildew (see Fumigation)
pails (see Buckets)
paper (see Blotting Paper; Newsprint, Freezer Paper)
Paper Towels
Plastic Sheeting
Portable Toilets (see Toilets)
power extension cords (see Extension Cords)
Refrigerated Trucks
Rubbish Hauling
shoes (see Boots)
signs (see under specific type of sign)
Sling Psychrometers
Toilets, Chemical
towels (see Paper Towels)
Trash Bags
trash cans (see Garbage Cans)

2. Sample format for supplies and suppliers list.

Product/Service Company  
  We Have:
  System/cooperative availability:

*Acorn Paper
3686 E. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90023

Hours: M to F 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM (warehouse)
...........M to F 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM (office)

Unit of sale=bundle (10 or more;number varies with style)

Q + indeterminate

Delivery: next day with no charge. Same day can be arranged if necessary.

Sizes and Styles:
Record Storage Box (brown, 2-piece)
10"x12"x15" p=$92.00/100 boxes

Appendix E: Emergency Purchase Order Form

Many retailers will want cash or a credit card to charge for supplies. It is wise to keep some petty cash available. Staff should not be asked to put purchases on their personal credit cards. If the organization doesn't have a credit card, work with your local retailers to see if they would honor emergency purchase order forms. The disaster plan would have a sample filled out form and instructions in this Appendix.

Appendix F: Volunteer Sign-up Sheet

Before letting outside volunteers work in hazardous conditions, check with your insurance carrier, risk manager, and/or personnel department. You should have a form that is simple to fill out but that protects both the institution and the volunteer.

Appendix G: Network Information

This Appendix should contain the contact information for your local disaster assisstance cooperative. There are (as of 10/2000) five cooperative preservation/disaster response networks in California: LAPNet, IELDRN, SILDRN, BAMAN, and the 44/99 Cooperative. To find the closest group consult California Preservation Networks



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Page last modified: August 2006
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