Disasters can occur to all institutions and at any time. Actually, the saying in the preservation field is "when" a disaster occurs, not "if." Therefore, it is crucial that the staffs of libraries, archives, historical societies, records repositories, and other cultural resources plan to minimize the potential for a disaster to occur and to deal as efficiently as possible with the impact of a disaster when one does. Among other things, disaster planning minimizes the potential for a disaster occurring in the first place, increases the possibility that a significant portion of the affected materials can be salvaged, and makes it possible that the salvaged materials will be in better condition at the end of the recovery process.
Disaster preparedness planning can be a labor-intensive and tedious process. However, the staff of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners has undertaken to provide as much assistance to institutions developing disaster preparedness plans as possible. For over a decade the Board has offered disaster preparedness planning workshops statewide, as well as for individual institutions when requested. These workshops have focused on hands-on experience, as well as the theoretical and practical aspects of developing a plan. Even so, many institutions have found the process daunting, especially since there are so many components to an effective plan.
As a consequence, the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) and the Board applied for, and received, an Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) National Leadership Grant to develop an online disaster preparedness planning tool. The result has been "dPlan: An Online Disaster Planning Tool" that has been the focus of recent workshops. While the work necessary to collect the information for the institutional plan has not be reduced, dPlan provides staff with templates to complete and a significant amount of information about disaster planning. With these templates, dPlan also prompts staff to investigate and gather information that they might not have considered before. The process allows staff to log-on to a Web site, complete those portions of the plan for which they have information, log-off to gather more information, and return to the site in the future. This way institutional staff can slowly, but surely, create their own disaster preparedness plan. At the end of the process, dPlan allows the institution to print a plan that includes all the information pertinent to the responses provided in an organized and easily usable format.
For further information on disaster preparedness planning visit the Disaster Resources section of this Web site.