Shortcomings and Successes: A Small-Scale Disaster Case Study

Shortcomings and Successes: A Small-Scale Disaster Case Study

Ashley Jones (Miami University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8624-3.ch018
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Through the presentation of a case study, this chapter will address the lessons learned from a small scale, anthropogenic water disaster that occurred in the stacks area of Miami University's Wertz Art and Architecture Library. The purpose of this chapter is to assess the shortcomings and the successes of the incident response, and to show how even small-scale disasters can highlight both the strengths and weaknesses of a disaster plan. Key lessons learned include the importance of an updated and usable disaster plan; the importance of clear communication before, during, and after an event; and the importance of developing a good relationship with outside responders. Recommendations and solutions taken by MU Libraries are also discussed.
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Overview Of The Literature

Much of the literature on disaster preparedness takes the form of guides or handbooks. Kulczak and Lennertz’s A Decade of Disaster: A Selected Bibliography of Disaster Literature, 1985-1995 lists over forty titles under the heading “plans and planning manuals” (as cited in Matthews, Smith, & Knowles, 2004).

There is one early publication on disaster preparedness that more closely resembles recent publications in its approach. Bohem’s (1978) paper Disaster Prevention and Disaster Preparedness was written in response to what she saw as a glaring omission. Bohem states in the foreword “despite mini-disasters which had struck libraries of two UC campuses in recent years, in which valuable materials had been lost, not one library within the UC system, not even those which had suffered, had a comprehensive disaster plan.” Bohem goes on to offer a text that is not a model plan but rather a “fairly comprehensive list of factors and options, to suit individual situations, and to be considered in the formulation of individualized disaster plans” (p. iii).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Outside Responders: Any incident responder outside of the library department, such as a university’s physical facilities department, local fire and/or police department, or response vendor such as commercial cleanup services and commercial freeze drying services.

Small-Scale Disaster: An emergency situation that only affects a single space or building as opposed to a wide-spread situation affecting an entire community or group of buildings; an isolated incident.

Incident Response: An action or series of actions in response to an out of the ordinary situation. An incident is anything that disrupts normal business, but does not necessarily have to be considered an emergency.

Anthropogenic: Situations that are man-made; caused by human actions or error.

Business Continuity: A plan or course of action that keeps the public face of an institution running as smoothly as possible.

Disaster Plan/Response Plan: Any plan in place that is used to deal with an incident, usually reserved for large scale, or emergency situations.

Physical Facilities Department: The institutional department responsible for buildings maintenance and buildings projects.

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