Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) Program

Courtesy Lakeville Public Library/Olivia Melo

Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) provide information and resources to help people during the disaster recovery process and are spaces where the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), the Small Business Administration, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and other recovery agencies provide face-to-face assistance to individuals following a gubernatorial or presidential disaster declaration. With that in mind, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) has been coordinating activities with MEMA and FEMA to pre-screen public libraries for possible use as DRCs. This use is a natural extension of what libraries do best: serve the public.

Public libraries have long been a centralized information hub, providing reference assistance, a variety of programs for the community, meeting rooms, parking, public-access computers, and knowledgeable staff. Library staff members also support their patrons on a personal as well as community level.

In the event of a disaster, these services become even more valuable to recovering communities.

During an emergency, libraries can help in many ways, from providing Internet access to supplying electricity for charging cell phones and laptops. Libraries can help restore a sense of normalcy by providing library materials, children’s programs, and meeting spaces.

The pilot project for the DRC Program focused on communities in southeastern Massachusetts and on Cape Cod and the Islands. During the initial phase, over 200 libraries east of Worcester County were surveyed to evaluate their capacity to be used as DRCs. In libraries not selected to serve as DRCs, MEMA and FEMA trained library staff to provide other types of recovery assistance, such as how to register with FEMA. FEMA also created a database of the libraries so officials can quickly open the library/DRC that is best able to meet the needs of the surrounding community. This process essentially streamlines the process of setting up a DRC.

In June 2009, Fred Vanderschmidt, Deputy Director for FEMA’s Disaster Systems Division in Region I, presented the pilot project to the National Mass Care Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The tools, products, and technical assistance developed in Massachusetts are being offered to other states to expand the program.

The DRC Program is an important step on the road to bringing cultural heritage stewards and Emergency Management Directors (EMDs) together to create a more comprehensive disaster response team within each community.  Everyone has something to bring to the table!

If you are interested in learning more about the DRC Program, please contact:

Evan Knight
Preservation Specialist
Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners
98 N. Washington Street, Suite 401
Boston, MA 02214-1933
(617) 725-1860 x236
(800) 952-7403 x236 (in state)