Disaster Plan Exercise

This document is a component of a larger program intended to provide staff with experience in the implementation of an institution’s disaster plan. Additional components of the program will be made available online as time permits.

Instructor Guidelines

Allow time for discussion and coordinated problem-solving. When one person is assigned task, (such as purchasing supplies from a vendor) make sure the group either listens to the discussion or the person reports the interaction to the group and the group discusses the problem/solution.

IQ: (Instructor’s Questions) are meant to stimulate discussion, keep the group moving in the right direction, and refocus them when they stray. Ask them only if necessary-when they aren’t thinking along the right lines or in a logical manner.

TP: (Teaching Point) are things that should come out during discussion. This may be information they don’t know or in some cases the participants have been given the information and may need to be steered to use it.

VP: (vendor points) refer to the second instructor who will roll play suppliers and the difficulties of getting what is needed.

Disaster Role-Playing Exercise

The purpose of the exercise is to demonstrate the usefulness and necessity of the disaster plan. We will accomplish this by using key sections of the disaster plan in the exercise.


You are a staff member of a Library. It is composed of an original building of three floors, built in 1954, and a newer wing (four floors) built in 1975.

11:00 a.m. Today (Sunday), a 6.5 earthquake hit the area. Ranges collapsed on the 4th floor of the new wing.. Water pipes broke on the first floor damaging reference and the card catalog areas. A smoldering electrical fire started on the second floor.

11:45 a.m. Water to broken pipes shut off.

1:00 p.m. Sprinklers throughout the second floor helped to extinguish fire.

1:30 p.m. Fire Department declared fire out.

1:30 p.m. Library Director arrived and began assembling key people (us) to help in damage assessment.

3:00 p.m. We arrive and are permitted by the fire chief and the seismic engineers to do preliminary damage assessment.

5:00 p.m. The damage assessment is complete.

What do we do now?

Library Staff of Command Center

Director (person in charge)
Ultimately in charge of it all but specifically in charge of communications and public relations. Interacts with higher authorities to obtain needed resources. Is the sole contact with media.
Head of public services (reference and circulation)
Collections/Special collections/archives coordinator
Primary responsibility for establishing priorities for recovery.
Head of Technical Services/Cataloger
Serves as Recorder to the Command Center. Makes a record of all major decisions and a chronology of events. May also be in charge of inventory control of the items being removed from the building.
Finance/budget officer
Responsible for obtaining all supplies and equipment. Also acts as liaison with the risk-management or insurance company.
Personnel Librarian
Must make sure union contract is not violated (overtime issues, etc.). Responsible for obtaining additional workers if deemed necessary.
Art Librarian
Not normally a member of the command center but lives nearby and heard the sirens so came to help.

The following people have regular positions in the library but during a disaster they assume these positions and become part of the command center team. In a small llibrary many of them are the same people as those listed above.

Facilities Coordinator
Responsible for the building. Suggests locations for packing areas and central staging area. Oversees the staging area, monitoring levels of supplies and equipment. Serves as communication link between the staging area and the recovery coordinator at the command center.
Recovery Coordinator
Staff member with preservation responsibilities for the collections. Supervises Team Leaders. Directs the recovery operation.
Team Leader
Supervise one or more work teams, is the communication link between workers and Recovery Coordinator, responsible for monitoring stock of supplies for teams and proper packing techniques.

Group Discussion Questions

Command Center

IQ: What is a command center and who staffs it?
TP: coordinates the recovery, establishes and maintains lines of communication, rumor control, security, etc.
IQ: Where are we in the building and why? How did the library director know to call us? And what do we need to function?
TP: Be sure they consult their disaster plan. Phones and other equipment are working on the first floor only by emergency generator. (Staff should eventually think to call Library Administrator number for information.) Daylight will allow staff to work but the elevators will be out indefinitely and electricity will be out for another 12 hours.

IQ: Where would we have gone if either the fire marshal hadn’t let us into the building or we had no electricity? And what would we be doing?
TP: : discuss setting up nearby buildings, corporate headquarters, in tents on the lawn, mobile trailers etc..
IQ: What do we do first?
TP: Might want to discuss stabilizing the environment-the water is shut off, the air conditioning is not functioning, it will be hot and humid during the day. What are all our options? (don’t forget personnel needs.)

Assessment of Damage

IQ: Who surveyed the floors and what did you find?
TP: The Facilities Coordinator should use the floor maps and mark on them as the information is given.
TP: head of T S/cataloger should serve as recorder, tally the amounts and record major decisions.

Fourth floor?
TP: (2 people went, one will report the entire fourth floor is blocked off and access denied.)
Third floor?
TP: (Again, two people have information and one reports.) No visible damage but reports strong odor of smoke and soot deposits on approximately 1500 books.
TP: Smoke and soot rises; water falls (check first floor and basements).
Second floor?
TP: Entire floor is damaged, lots of wet books-20,000, some totally burned books (approximately 1000), a few both wet and burned (5000).
TP: Note that two people separated to do assessment of the floor-point out this was unwise, unsafe. . .
First floor? 4-5,000 books and 600 drawers of the card catalog
TP: Water pipes broken over reference stacks and card catalog-the water is shut off now.

Total 30,000 books need to be moved (all of second floor, parts of first. Third floor not considered in this number—card catalog also exclude from count).

Evaluating Priorities

IQ: What area do be clear first?
TP: Use the priority list and floor maps. The collection development/specials collections/archives person should lead this discussion.
TP: The first priority item is the archives/Special collections and they can’t be dealt with as the area is considered unsafe (collapsed and near collapsing stacks).
IQ: What are our other priorities?
TP: The second priority materials (reference materials and the card catalog) are wet and can be dealt with supplies on hand (500 boxes for the books.
IQ: What do we do with the cards in the card catalogue?
TP: Part of third priority has burned (1000), most is wet and covered with ash and soot (4500), most of it is very wet (5, 500).
TP:: priority 4-art books (3000) are slightly damp and are already starting to dry. Most of the art books on coated paper. (on first floor) TP: Make sure they understand what happens to coated papers.Remaining books on second floor (priorities 5-) 14th thousand volumes.

IQ: are the priorities acceptable?
TP: Art librarian should now disagree and argue for moving art to be done first or they will be lost. Let the group arrive at a decision but point out that they should stay as close as possible to the disaster plan priorities. This should have been argued when the priorities were first established and not now while dealing with disaster.

Determining Plan of Action

IQ: Can we air dry? Is there enough space to do it all? Is it the type of material that can be air dried? Can it be frozen?
TP:: Freeze them to buy time. Consider vacuum freeze drying, de-humidification or other technology?
IQ: How should the books be packed? Should we take the time to wrap them with freezer paper? Should they be packed in the aisles or transport items by book trucks to a packing area? Where are good places for the packing areas? Where will the central staging area be?
TP: The elevators are out of service indefinitely. The electricity should be restored by 7:00 a.m. Get them to come up with other ways to move the material down.
TP: Make sure someone marks staging locations on floor maps (unless they pack in the aisles then mark rendezvous points).

Assessing Staffing Requirements

IQ: How many people do you need to get the work done?
TP: Boxes (standard record box) hold an average of 10-12 wrapped books, 12-15 unwrapped. One person can usually pack 100 books per hour. Make sure they are healthy and able to do the work (less physically able staff can be used to answer phones, order additional supplies, handle volunteers, get food and water, etc.. )
TP: You have 20 staff members. However, one is elderly, two have back problems and another is pregnant. (they should handle phones, order additional supplies, handle volunteers, get food and water.
TP: Reminder: the weather is hot and humid, mold will start in 48 to 72 hours. (at this point approximately six hours have passed)
TP: If the group decides they must remove the books within 48 hours, they must package out at a minimum rate of 625 books per hour. People will be exhausted in four hours and dangerous in six.

Example of staffing math: If you divide the staff of 16 in two (8 staff on, eight off) and two work teams per shift (two teams of four) and alternated them every four hours, could you get the work done?

Assume eight people can pack 700 books per hour: 700bks/hr x 4 hr/shift=2,800 bks/shift; 30,000/ 2,800=10.7–11 shifts of eight people are needed to pack.

How many shifts can staff be expected to work in a 24-hour period?

Four on, four off, four on–total of 12 hours on call and 16 hours of work:

Doing four shifts of four hours and eight people per 16 hour work day: 4shft/day x 2,800bks/shft=11,200 packed per day; 30,000/11,200=2.67days. It would take 64 hours to pack out all the books. Is this satisfactory?

TP: Watch the time on this discussion
IQ: Who is responsible for contacting staff? Where are their phone numbers?
TP: Should refer them to disaster plan and importance of having this information in advance and accessible.
IQ: What do you need to tell them?
TP:: this will be based upon decisions made on how to deploy staff. For example: “call eight and tell them to report at X X X X and come prepared (heavy shoes, grubbies, bring food and water if possible). Call remaining eight and tell them to report to work four hours later (same instructions).”
IQ: Are their union contract issues? Have you done all you can to insure workers comfort and safety?
TP: Do not underestimate how emotionally and physically exhausting this will be. People will be exhausted in four hours and dangerous in six. Consider having a counselor with expertise in crisis management on call

Assessing Supplies and Equipment Needs

IQ: What kinds of supplies do we need and how much of each?
TP: Use the disaster plan list of supplies.
TP:: Size of boxes a guess: 1.5 cubic feet. (10 x12 x15) recommended for regular size books-but some amount of larger ones (18 x18 x18?) will be needed for oversize materials.
TP: Will we wrap with freezer paper or not?
IQ: Who will order the boxes? Tape? Freezer paper? Etc..
VP1: Boxes: can give you 1000 now, the remaining 1500 in two-three weeks
VP2: What sizes do you want? I don’t have that size but I’ve got something even better. It is bigger and so will hold more and has a bursting strength of the hundred and 50 lbs.
VP3: Has the right size and amounts.
VP: Tape no problem–what kind? did you want tape guns?
VP: Pallets–what size? some Freezer companies requrie very special sizes and some supply their own(must ask Freezer company)
VP: Freezer paper–no problem bu you must pay with cash or check–no purchase orders accepted
IQ: If you decide to temporarily freeze materials, a contacts freezer facility?
TP: Reminder that these places have limited hours (closed weekends, etc. and may not open until 8:00 a.m.).
VP1: Sorry–got a load of shrimp coming in.
VP2: How many cubic feet will it occupy?
IQ: (If they decide to vacuum freeze dry) who are we getting to freeze dry? Who makes the contact?
VP1 We’re booked. Can you freeze the materials until we can take them (3 months)?
VP2: All of our trucks are out on call. Can you ship it to us frozen?