Happy Tuesday! Last week, you worked through your salvage priorities and procedures, and gave some thought to a command center from which to coordinate your recovery efforts, as well as designated a safe space to gather during an evacuation. This week, we’ll think through supplies and services needed for response and recovery. We’ll provide suggestions for supplies and offer considerations about services that will help you respond effectively to an emergency and aid in recovery.
Recovery services include building restoration companies, which have the professional expertise and industrial-level equipment to dry out your facility following a disaster. Some disaster recovery companies have the capacity to dry out your building and freeze-dry thousands of collections items after a water disaster. However, it’s best to get in touch with these companies before an event occurs. Your first task this week is to research and contact a few recovery companies and select your preferred vendor – or two: following a major disaster, your preferred vendor may be too busy to assist you immediately.
First, identify which company is a good fit for your organization based on your collections and needs, as well as the location of your building(s) and the companies you are researching. To get you started, the following companies are available nationwide and have experience in working with cultural heritage organizations and collections:
Take a look at their websites to get an idea of their services. Also check with your parent organization and/or benchmark institutions for recommendations or existing relationships. For government organizations, ask about pre-existing contracts – public libraries in Massachusetts, for example, have a protocol for accessing recovery advice and services through MBLC:
- Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners: 617-725-1860 x236
Once you establish your short list of preferred recovery companies, invite them to your institution for a walkthrough of your building(s) and collections. This site visit is an opportunity for you to learn about each vendor’s services and for the vendors to understand the needs of your specific institution. The vendors will also assess the layout of your property and determine what types of materials and extent of collections you might expect them to salvage following a disaster. COSTEP MA has put together a helpful guide to working with recovery vendors that includes a list of questions to ask: Establishing Relationships with Disaster Recovery Vendors.
There are other outside vendor services that may be necessary in the event of a collections emergency, as well, including conservation labs and cultural heritage response groups. You can get immediate collections recovery advice from:
- Northeast Document Conservation Center, 24/7 Collections Emergency Hotline: 1-855-245-8303
- National Heritage Responders, 24/7 hotline: 202-661-8068
There are many supplies you can have on hand to readily respond to a disaster. For smaller issues like a dripping ceiling or leaking pipe, having supplies like plastic sheeting to cover and protect collections will reduce damage. During a power outage, flashlights (with fresh batteries) will ensure that staff can safely follow protocols for clearing the building. It is also important to ensure that you have first aid supplies and the appropriate PPE available during an emergency, such as face masks, gloves, aprons, and so on.
We recommend putting together sets of disaster response kits containing basic supplies to have on hand throughout your institution. Kits are best stored in watertight containers and clearly labeled “Disaster Kit – Do Not Use for Other Purposes” so that supplies are not taken from the kits. This advice comes from COSTEP’s Response webpage, where you can find more information about assembling and maintaining disaster response kits.
For lists of suggested supplies, see:
- Section C: Emergency Equipment and Supplies in NEDCC Preservation Leaflet 3.4 Worksheet for Outlining an Emergency Response Plan.
- Society for American Archivists Supplies webpage.
You might also choose to purchase pre-assembled disaster response kits and/or spill kits from your favorite archival suppliers.
As part of your disaster planning over the past week, you have given thought to including salvage procedures in your plan in a way that makes sense for your organization and collections. Whether you have decided to document procedures directly in your plan or to point to outside resources, now it’s time to take a close look at those procedures and note the supplies you need to carry them out.
For wet salvage of collections, you need supplies and equipment like blank newsprint, blotting paper, spun polyester sheets, clear polyester sheets, various absorbent materials, tables, fans, and more. Identify the materials you would like to have on hand ahead of time and designate watertight containers and a place to store them that is least likely to be affected by a disaster.
Also consider items that are difficult for your institution to store or to keep on hand, and document a strategy for acquiring them in the moment, as well as identify the vendors who sell them. For example, bulk newsprint can be acquired as packing paper from a home improvement store, which might also have the box fans and dehumidifiers needed to remediate a damp post-disaster environment at an affordable price.
Speaking of price, this week is also a good time to investigate access to emergency funding. Your administration is likely to manage any funding for emergencies, working with your institution’s insurance agency to ensure appropriate coverage. It will be helpful to have a meeting with your administration and Disaster Team to understand what funds may be available (or unavailable) in a time of need.
It is also a good time to discuss your institution’s Continuity of Operations (COOP) plan when meeting with administration – whether or not there is one in place and how staff fit into this plan. The COOP plan is something you will have completed in advance of a disaster, and it prioritizes the steps for running your organization and for resuming activities that use your collections. As you might imagine, response and recovery efforts involve a lot of work and require many people to help out. A COOP plan may also address how personnel can be involved in the recovery effort, as well as keep the business running.
To recap, we are taking stock of the services and supplies we need to effectively and efficiently respond to and recover from disasters. Your to-do list of activities to begin this week includes:
- Researching recovery companies and inviting them to your institution for a site visit.
- Selecting your preferred recovery company and documenting that in your plan.
- Acquiring disaster response supplies and assembling disaster response kits.
- Identifying the supplies needed for disaster recovery, and documenting a strategy for acquiring them now or when needed, including vendor information.
- Investigating access to emergency funding and discussing COOP planning with administration.
You are almost to the finish line with your disaster plan! Next week, you will be finishing up your plans and getting the word out to the rest of your staff. We will walk you through distributing the plan and training staff on how to use it, as well as strategizing ways to keep your plan a living document through scheduling regular updates and review.