A couple months ago I attended a disaster response workshop for cultural institutions, particularly libraries and museums, sponsored by the U of I’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Though I’ve been introduced to disaster response before, it was nice to get a more formal background. The workshop lasted three hours but the speaker gave us many links so we can learn more online.The first part of the workshop was a lecture where we learned about how to prepare for a disaster and then deal with the disaster as it is occurring. The second part of the workshop was a tabletop exercise where we split into groups and discussed how we would deal with a particular scenario.
Here are some takeaways from the workshop:
- Before the disaster
- keep a log of places that disasters have occurred: when and why.
- work with the facilities department to maintain good practices
- identify potential threats
- Preparedness: Top 10 Things to Do Before a Disaster Strikes:
- Prepare a disaster/emergency plan that covers people and collections
- Survey your building for risks
- Have a communication plan (i.e. phone tree, email)
- Prepare a first response action list that includes your emergency response team
- Organize emergency contact information for all staff (including volunteers and interns)
- Establish salvage priorities
- Create collections disaster supply kits
- Understand your insurance coverage and funding options
- Establish collaborative relationships (like at other institutions)
- Train staff in response and recovery
- For more information, you can find a disaster preparation and prevention checklist here.
- During the disaster
- Life safety — make sure all humans are safe!
- Incident stabilization
- Property preservation (i.e. collections salvage)
- Returning facilities and services to normal
- Conduct an assessment
- Stabilize the environment
- stop water at source
- lower temperature and humidity
- mop up or pump out standing water
- maintain security
- Emotional response
- be kind
- take breaks
- be aware of changes in behavior
- talk it out — debrief after an event
One of the interesting things in this workshop was to listen to other peoples’ experiences with disasters. When I worked at the Spurlock Museum, a small cultural heritage museum at the U of I, I found a huge pest infestation in a large cabinet of baskets. We immediately started bagging all the baskets in the area and had to do a thorough investigation of where the pests came from and how long they had been feasting. If you have a disaster story, please share!
For more information about this workshop, please visit this link! If you have more online disaster resources you would like to share, please post a comment below.