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Session 8: Emergency Preparedness


preparing a disaster plan

1 The Disaster Planning Team

The first step in creating a disaster plan is to gain institutional commitment to the planning process. The administration must approve the expenditure of the time and money required to draft and implement the plan, as well as provide for staff training.

Members of the Team

The disaster planning team should be comprised of staff with responsibility for collections care. The team may be large or small, depending on the size of the institution. Small institutions might consider cooperating with other small organizations within the community, so that they can pool emergency resources and help each other to stay on schedule when preparing a plan. In a large institution, the disaster team might include library professionals, a conservator, a facility manager, and a technology support representative. Input from fire safety professionals, police, and other interested parties will provide added energy and visibility to the planning process and broaden perspectives on various issues.

Assigning Tasks

The disaster planning team should be led by a disaster planning manager, appointed by the institution's director. This person is responsible for setting objectives, coordinating the project, establishing a budget, and approving expenditures. The team must prepare a realistic timetable for the completion of each task or goal, including testing and future updates of the plan.

Each member of the team should be assigned responsibility for a specific category or part of the plan: assessing risks, devising prevention activities, gathering information on supplies and services, preparing response procedures, etc. Tasks should be assigned according to the ability of various staff members to best handle them. It is usually a good idea to assign one person the responsibility of pulling together all the information gathered by the team into a written plan.

2 Writing a Disaster Plan

A disaster plan must include both prevention activities and response instructions. A written document containing this information must be prepared by members of the disaster planning team and approved in writing by senior management. The plan should list all staff members (and any others, such as fire department contacts) who will be given a copy, and it should indicate where the plans will be stored. Copies should be placed in all departments and at all points of contact (e.g., reference desk, circulation desk), and copies should also be stored off site.

Writing a disaster plan can be extremely complex and time-consuming. While you cannot complete your plan as part of this session, you have already begun the process.

Look at this sample Disaster Plan Table of Contents (PDF, 432k), which reflects the concepts throughout this session.

You can use the information you have collected as the basis for your disaster plan by:

  • Expanding on it to create your own plan (see Additional Resources for links to sample plans), or
  • Using dPlan, the Northeast Document Conservation Center's online disaster planning template. Input the information you have collected, along with additional information, and dPlan will generate a plan for you.

3 Maintaining the Disaster Plan

Once you have prepared a disaster plan, remember that it will not be effective without reviewing and updating, which should occur yearly (at a minimum). It is often a good idea to assign each member of the disaster planning team responsibility for updating a specific section. Once updating is complete, make sure that you replace all existing copies of the plan (in all locations) with the new version.

The importance of training all staff in emergency procedures and implementation of the disaster plan cannot be overstated. Staff members are often the first line of defense against disasters, because they observe problems as they occur. At a minimum, hold periodic staff meetings to review basic preventive measures and proper implementation of the disaster plan (e.g., how to recognize a potential threat, how to respond, how to report a problem, who to call, how and when to activate the plan). Also review specific evacuation routes and general emergency procedures.

Periodic emergency drills and testing of the plan can give your staff confidence, as well as point out "weak spots" in your plan. Even if a full-scale disaster drill cannot be held, consider a "table-top" exercise, in which staff members meet to go through a scenario and discuss how they would respond.


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