We at COSTEP MA invite you to join us for our blog series on writing – or updating – your disaster plan. Over the next month and a half, we will be posting tips and guidance each Tuesday on emergency management and disaster planning. The culmination of this series will be our live tabletop exercise (TTX) on September 22, 2020, at which you can put your completed disaster plan to the test! Not sure what a TTX is? Check out our post explaining the activity. All are welcome to join us for this disaster plan writing series, whether or not you are participating in the tabletop exercise. Mark your calendars for TTX Tuesdays!

It’s Tuesday! This week, we’ll resume our discussion from part 1 and focus on recovery as our theme. We’ll pick up our thread about salvage priorities and discuss salvage procedures, we’ll share tips on how to designate a temporary command center (in the event of limited or no access to your facility) in your disaster plan, and we’ll go over evacuation and emergency procedures for staff.

Last week, you itemized your collections, administrative records, and digital records into a salvage priorities list. Let’s build on the work you’ve done and document the processes and actions of actually salvaging those records should they ever get damaged during an emergency. As a reminder, disaster plans are living documents that should be updated on a regular basis. To that end, if you do not have a disaster plan in place yet and are starting from scratch, don’t worry about including every decision for every possible type of damage, emergency, or eventuality. Instead, take this as an opportunity to think through and write down some high-level guidelines. Later, when you look at your disaster plan again (in a couple months’ or a year’s time), you can improve on what you’ve documented and add more detail if necessary. General recovery guidelines can include:

  • Who to contact for help or conservation advice regarding salvaging collections:
    • Conservation and collections care professionals
      • National Heritage Responders: 1-202-661-8068
      • Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners: 1-617-725-1860 x236
      • Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC): 1-978-470-1010
  • Stabilizing your recovery environment:
    • Indicate ideal temperature and humidity settings and if/how air should be circulated (NEDCC’s free preservation leaflets can help you determine a baseline)
    • Plan for routine checks for mold growth in wet conditions
  • Securing your recovery environment:
    • Indicate procedures for how to control access to the area
  • Setting up your temporary command space in the event of a prolonged building closure:
    • Indicate where that command space will be
    • Indicate what supplies you need (phones, first aid, coffee, etc.)
  • Documenting the damage:
    • Write down steps for describing and photographing all damaged areas and collections
    • Plan to periodically log recovery actions taken

For institutions that already have disaster plans in place, take this as an opportunity to review and reflect on your recovery procedures and add more detail if need be. 

Now that you have those high-level guidelines in place, spend some time thinking about salvage procedures and determine how you want to include those in your plan. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to! It’s okay to point to other professional resources, and there are plenty of them out there to help you. Here are some places to start:

For institutions that already have salvage procedures documented in their plans, use this time to read through resources that are new to you and consider adding them to your plan.

Finally, let’s discuss emergency evacuation procedures. Include a section on emergency evacuation procedures in your disaster plan and schedule a time to meet with your staff to go over these procedures. (And remember to do so every time you review and update your disaster plan – this is a great way to make sure new staff members are familiar with your procedures.) Below are suggestions to guide you as you determine, update, or review your evacuation procedures:

  • Establish and designate a safe area or areas where people should evacuate to / assemble outside of the building 
  • Establish who will be responsible for making sure the building is clear (i.e., building or floor captains and alternates)
  • Use any staff/visitor log(s) to check for who may be present in the building at the time of evacuation
  • Establish if any administrative documents, such as staff/visitor logs and printed collections inventories, should be removed from the building and who will be responsible for bringing those with them when they evacuate
  • Reference your emergency contact list for who to call during a building evacuation
  • Establish who will be the point of contact with first responders if the event requires interacting with fire or law enforcement officials

Scheduling a fire drill is a productive way to rehearse a building evacuation and encourage staff members to review your updated disaster plan.

Let’s recap! This week, you should have documented in your disaster plan:

  • Procedures for establishing, securing, and using a collections recovery zone
  • Salvage procedures for collections or pointers to resources that delineate salvage procedures
  • Building evacuation procedures

Next week, we’ll go over emergency supplies, pre-disaster communication with emergency services, and other topics related to emergency preparedness before a disaster strikes.