Create or Update Your Contact Lists
One of the most important elements of disaster response is knowing how to contact critical people—emergency responders, staff, and vendors. Make sure your staff members have an up-to-date list that includes as much contact information as possible: work and home phone numbers (including direct lines at work), mobile phone numbers, work and home email addresses, and any other relevant addresses. Staff at many institutions hit by hurricanes in 2005 discovered that they couldn’t use work email or phone numbers because work systems were completely out of commission; those who had an alternative phone number or email address often could connect.
Review or Establish Basic Emergency Procedures
Staff members need to know basic procedures and have essential information where it’s readily available when there’s an emergency. All staff members should have copies of the procedures that they can keep by their phones, at home, and in their cars. SAA has adapted an outline for basic emergency procedures that can be used as a template to develop your own.
Conduct a Disaster Drill
Different archives face different threats. Any repository could have a fire. Those on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts are threatened by hurricanes; those in the Midwest, by tornadoes; and those in the West, by earthquakes. These types of disasters often strike with little warning, so it’s critically important that staff members know how to respond immediately. There’s no time to plan when you have to evacuate a burning building! A disaster drill will help remind your staff of the proper procedures, and can also reveal unanticipated problems that can then be corrected. Disaster drills often are difficult to execute because they interrupt public service. If you can’t perform a full-fledged drill, have a “silent drill.” Identify a skeleton staff group who will remain on duty to provide public service while the rest of the staff conduct the exercise.
Conduct Scenario Exercises
In every emergency, staff members face unexpected circumstances. Scenario exercises offer them a chance to think about how they would respond to situations that would be hard to incorporate into a drill, and the exercises are particularly helpful for those who have specific responsibilities for dealing with disasters. What would you do if someone pulled a gun in the reading room? What would you do if the toilet started to overflow? If a major storm after hours causes significant damage to buildings in the area, do you come to work? You receive a call at night that there’s been a break in; what do you do? Your supervisor is out of town; who do you call?
Invite Your Local Firefighters to Visit Your Repository
Firefighters’ first responsibility is to put out fires. But they are also sensitive to the property they are protecting. Fire safety professionals often offer advice on safety procedures and training on how to prevent fires and how to use fire extinguishers.
Survey the Building for Risks
Inspect the condition of your facility, with an eye to identifying possible hazards.
Make Sure All Collections Are in Boxes
If you have a fire, your collections are at risk from water or smoke damage. Boxes do more than serve as a storage container; they provide protection. In case of a fire, boxes provide a barrier against smoke. As important, winds generated by a fire won’t pick up loose items to feed the flames. Boxes also protect materials from water due to sprinklers, broken pipes, or leaks.
Make Sure Boxes Are Off the Floor
Any number of causes—a broken pipe, a clogged toilet, fire sprinklers—may result in water in your storage areas. If shelf space is limited, use pallets for clearance.
Identify the Most Critical, Essential, Important Records
In some cases, you may have a chance to move some items to a more secure location. Do you know what you’d take with you? In addition to your holdings, what administrative records (such as computer backup tapes) might you take?
Inventory Emergency Supplies
Check to make sure that you have what you need in case of an emergency, such as a well-stocked first aid kit, flashlights with glow-in-the-dark tape, and large rolls of plastic sheeting with ropes and clips to tent collections. Check to see that you have materials to begin salvage operations, such as buckets and mops, fans, respirators, extension cords, garbage bags, disinfectant, a camera with flash and film to document damage, and a water vacuum.
Review Your Emergency Preparedness Plan
Creating—or even revising—an emergency preparedness plan takes more than a day. But on MayDay you could develop a strategy for updating your existing plan.
If Your Repository Doesn’t Have an Emergency Preparedness Plan...
… MayDay is a good time to get started. Don’t expect that your plan will be finished on May 1! Use this day to set a timeline to complete your plan before MayDay 2012. Browse a variety of guidelines and leaflets to familiarize yourself with what needs to be done. Many resources address specific materials (such as photographs or film) within your collections. Check out some disaster plan templates or read through example disaster plans to help get you started. You may want to visit our tutorials page to arrange for disaster preparation training for you and/or your employees. Visit Annotated MayDay Resources for more information.
Last updated on: March 11, 2011