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Subject: Hurricane preparedness

Hurricane preparedness

From: John DePew <depew>
Date: Wednesday, August 11, 1993
Attached is part of a report I am writing on the affects of Hurricane
Andrew on libraries in south Florida.  In view of the possibility of a
hurricane developing and hitting the U.S. in the next few weeks, I
thought librarians might be interested in some of the recommendations of
"what to do" from those who actually went through it last August.  This
list is short, but reflects answers to the question, "what are the most
important things librarians should do before and after a storm hits?"

(Please note: This file is being sent to a number of listservers for
wide distribution.  I apologize if you receive copies from several

                          Lessons From Andrew

It has been almost a year since Hurricane Andrew smashed into south
Florida damaging or destroying approximately 60 libraries and
information centers.  Most libraries were not prepared for the magnitude
of the disaster that befell them--and suffered accordingly.  A
catastrophe the size of Hurricane Andrew (or for that matter, any
hurricane) is likely to be beyond the immediate capacity of any library
to successfully survive, regardless of any precautions taken beforehand,
especially if such a storm hits the facility square on.  Yet, there are
actions that can be taken to reduce damage, and reduce the time and
costs necessary to bring the library back to a reasonable operating

A few months after the hurricane hit Florida I sent a questionnaire to
the libraries in the storm's path.  I wanted to find out, among other
things, how they were affected, what they did to recover, and what they
would have done differently.  Of the 186 questionnaires sent, 124 were
returned that contained useable responses.  59 libraries indicated they
had received some level of damage.

Since there is a possibility of a hurricane developing in the Atlantic
as I am composing this, I thought it might be timely to share with the
library community some of the comments of those who actually experienced
damage.  Paaken seriously, 3) there are many other precautions to
implement, in addition to those listed here, 4) consult a competent
conservator for expert help, and 5) there are a number of good
publications on disaster preparedness and recovery, for example:

Fortson, Judith. Disaster Planning and Recovery: A How-To-Do-It Manual
for Librarians and Archivists.  How-To-Do-It Manuals for Libraries, no.
21. NY: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 1992. 212-925-8650.

New York State Library. Disaster Preparedness Planning Resource Packet.
Albany: New York State Library, 1989.  518-474-6971.


  On Site:

    Remove to a secure location all rare or expensive books and all
    audio-visual materials

    Attempt to protect the bulk of the collection by covering with a
    water-proof covering/plastic sheeting

    Cover danger spots, including electronic equipment

    Remove all small objects that may become projectiles

    Librarian & one other should have a listing of all library holdings

    Shutters for windows

    Adequate personnel to help move and cover sections/items/equipment

    Have a plan

    Assess vulnerabilities

    Remove terminals

    Raise books near floor at least one level

    Secure all computer discs vital to continued operation

    Secure all shelf-list cards

    Take CDs out of stations

    Remove displays from counters

    Move shelving units away from window areas, if possible

    Seal file cabinets with waterproof tape

    Move valuable equipment to an interior protected area

    Back-up computers completely


    Get "call-waiting"

    Acquire cellular phones for the library

    Regionalize responsibilities

    When hurricane watch is announced, set a day/time for a
    post-hurricane meeting of key personnel--designate at least two
    sites (one or more may be unusable)

    Review insurance coverage annually

    Quarterly, send home phone numbers of all personnel to members of
    administrative staff

    Assign duties to staff, with back-ups

    Specify chain of command for clean-up after storm

    Have backup arrangements for online computer services


    Stock hard hats, rubber boots, and generators

    Stock water


  On Site:

    Human safety first

    Stay calm, keep a sense of humor

    Get to collection ASAP, insist on gaining entry to building (not
    weeks later)

    Survey damage, make thorough assessment of damage--the more
    thoroughly the better

    Prioritize materials

    Check shelves for damage, if weakened, remove books to safer place

    Remove books or other materials showing signs of mildew

    Take plastic bags, lots of flashlights, boxes and carts to
    facilitate removal of items

    Treat damaged materials in most cost effective way (may be better to
    replace than repair)


    Set-up a calling tree (going to next person if someone doesn't have
    a phone, or can't be reached)

    Distribute cellular phones

I would appreciate any comments, etc. you may have.

John N. DePew
School of Library & Information Studies
Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL 32306-2048
fax: 904-644-9763

                  Conservation DistList Instance 7:19
                 Distributed: Thursday, August 12, 1993
                        Message Id: cdl-7-19-003
Received on Wednesday, 11 August, 1993

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