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 week 7 for TTX Tuesdays, and that means we’ve reached our last post! Congratulations on all of the work you’ve accomplished so far. In just over a month’s time, you’ve learned about institutional risk assessments, emergency preparedness, and response and recovery, and you’ve drafted a comprehensive disaster plan! This week, take some time to review all of the sections you’ve either updated or drafted in your disaster plan and read through it as one cohesive document. You should have the following documented:

  • basic institutional information and an emergency contact list that includes staff members and first responders
  • a contact list for services needed during an emergency
  • information indicating the chain of command during an emergency (which can include more detailed information on staff responsibilities during an emergency)
  • a list of emergency equipment and supplies available to you during an emergency (for example, where these supplies are located in your building)
  • procedures for responding to a disaster that include evacuation procedures and response to damaged collections
  • salvage priorities and procedures for your collections

With one week to go before our virtual TTX on September 22nd, there are only a few things left to cover: basic information detailing where copies of your plan are located and when your plan will be routinely updated, scheduling a review of your disaster plan on a regular basis, and meeting with your staff members to train them on the information in your plan. 

A disaster plan is a living document, and while some sections might remain constant over time, your plan will contain other sections that will require updates on a regular basis.  For example, if your institution has experienced staff turn-over, you will need to update your emergency contact lists to remove employees that have departed from your institution and/or include new hires who have joined. Make it a habit to update your disaster plan when you need to update your telephone tree.

Likewise, if you have assigned evacuation responsibilities to individuals (as opposed to job titles), you will need to update these sections in your plan. Some sections that might remain constant in your plan could include your salvage priorities and procedures for collections, although as new collections care resources become available you should ensure that the latest best practices information is reflected in your plan. 

Document when your plan will be routinely updated (for example, bi-annually or annually) in your plan and include the date of the latest update in your plan’s cover page and page footer to help keep track of versions. As we mentioned in a previous post, scheduling a fire drill can be a productive way to rehearse the steps you’ve outlined. Set yourself the goal of planning emergency drills on an annual basis, with a review of your disaster plan with your staff as a follow-up activity that is part of the drill.

Finally, you’ve itemized steps for what to do in the event of a building evacuation and/or a prolonged building closure, but what happens if you forget to bring your disaster plan with you? In an ironic turn of events, your hard work might not pay off if you only maintain a single copy of your plan that gets damaged, destroyed, or lost during an emergency.

Avoid this situation by delegating staff members to keep copies of the plan with them off-site or by delegating staff members to maintain copies of the plan and take those copies with them during an evacuation. Document where additional copies of your plan are located. Train your staff members on the steps you’ve worked so hard to document, so that your team need only refer to your plan in an emergency rather than read through it in its entirety.

And that’s a wrap! Thank you for following along with COSTEP MA’s TTX Tuesdays blog series. We look forward to helping you test out your plans during our TTX next week.