If Hurricane Sandy and Winter Storm Athena have taught us anything, it’s to be prepared. We all knew that both storms were coming, and we were able to prepare to the best of our abilities, but nobody knew what the extent of the damage would be. If that has taught us anything else, it’s that even our best attempts can fall short. There is no excuse not to have a plan!
So how can a cultural institution like Burke, or any of the other Columbia libraries, be and remain prepared for a natural disaster like Sandy? (Based off of Columbia University Libraries’ Disaster Response Manual)
1) Keep an updated emergency contact list on hand, including the names and numbers of your institution’s preservation and conservation department.
2) Be prepared with all the necessary supplies, and replenish when needed. Such supplies might include plastic tarps, buckets, paper towels, and other cleaning supplies.
3) Assign priorities to certain groups of materials, so that they will be attended to first in the event of an emergency.
4) Ensure the safety and security of the area in question. Make sure the exits are clear, that the security systems are working, et cetera.
5) Know the floorplan where the collections are located. Note the location of fire extinguishers, emergency exits, sprinklers, et cetera, and make revisions to said floorplan when necessary.
6) Reduce the potential risks to collections, including both fire and water damage. Make sure, for example, that collections are not located on the floor (in case of flooding), and make sure that appliances such as space heaters are turned off.
7) Document all reports of maintenance problems in your location and be sure to report all leaks and other issues to facilities, whether or not damage has resulted from these problems. Proper attention to these and other issues will help curb future problems.
It is important to note that as your institution evolves, so must your disaster preparedness plan. Collections may move, floorplans may change, and key staff members come and go throughout the years. Keeping your plan up to date and making sure that all staff members are continually updated is integral in to maintaining disaster preparedness in your institution. And while having a plan in place is no guarantee that your institution is safe from disaster, you still have done all that you can do to prepare. The rest, unfortunately, is up to the unpredictable force that is Mother Nature.