After the Flood: Lessons Learned from Small-Scale Disasters

After the Flood: Lessons Learned from Small-Scale Disasters

Gerald Chaudron (University of Memphis, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8624-3.ch017
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This chapter uses two case studies of small disasters caused by water to examine the impact of such small-scale events on the libraries concerned, how those libraries managed the emergencies, and what lessons were learned which will inform their planning for future incidents. The case studies show that while both incidents are water-related, they are quite different in terms of source, size, impact, recovery time, and frequency. Many books and articles on disaster planning focus on the larger disasters, such as hurricanes and floods, which may be the reason the much more common smaller emergencies do not get the attention they deserve. Libraries should be planning for the small disasters first, and then scaling up their preparation to account for the larger, less frequent events, rather than the reverse. More libraries may be persuaded to do such planning if they are preparing for a probable scenario rather than one which may only be a possibility.
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Libraries, along with archives and museums, like to think of themselves as safe repositories for our cultural heritage, with the larger institutions proudly touting their security systems and climate –controlled spaces. The reality is, however, that most American collecting institutions have struggled to provide even the basic care their collections require according to the Heritage Health Index survey taken in 2005. This survey (a follow-up of which is expected in 2015) revealed that around 50 percent of responding institutions had damage to their collections from sources such as light, airborne pollutants, and improper storage, 40 percent had no funds for preservation, and 80 percent had no capability to implement an emergency plan should a disaster strike (2005, p. 2). Unfortunately, disasters occur more frequently than we would like to think. The Association of College and Research Libraries reports that 75 percent of small to mid-sized college libraries had experienced an emergency, some multiple times (Wilkinson, Lewis, & Dennis, 2010, p.7).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Prelude: The period, either short or extended, when the conditions which contribute to causing the emergency or disaster arise.

Disaster: An unexpected event with seriously destructive consequences.

Recovery and Restoration: Procedures after an emergency involving action, over a short or extended time period, necessary to resume the library’s normal operations, including the repair of library facilities and resources, such as hardcopy and electronic information sources.

Aftermath: The period immediately after an emergency, when the situation has stabilized and an assessment of the damage can begin.

Emergency: An unexpected occurrence requiring immediate action.

Disaster Plan: Policies and procedures developed by an organization to be used during an emergency or disaster to prevent or minimize damage to its staff and resources.

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