The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 26, Number 6
Oct 2003

Master of Disaster Web Site

Jon S. Schultz, Professor of Law at the University of Houston, has created a web site to aid beginners and others in their efforts to write disaster plans. The site,, is subtitled "The Beginner's Disaster Planning Site for Libraries, Businesses and Institutions." Schultz is eminently qualified for this role as he was the director of the University of Houston Law Library in June 2001 when Tropical Storm Allison struck there, destroying 175,000 volumes of law books, 1.2 million microfiche, and 4,000 cubic feet of archival papers. According to the web site, what they had to deal with was "the most costly natural disaster ever experienced in legal education." Thus, he obviously speaks from experience, and his experience tells readers that planning can keep emergencies from becoming disasters.

An intriguing page on the web site is called "Your One-Hour Emergency Plan." One hour? Schultz makes the claim that an "hour's work will give you a reasonable semblance of preparedness." These are the components he includes in the one-hour plan:

Schultz emphasizes the need for speed in an emergency. Calling suppliers before others puts you higher on their lists. Mold grows quickly in cellulose; within a week, wet books and papers become unrecoverable. Books swell immediately and can destroy shelving with their force. If you are permitted to, move volumes from places where that may happen.

The Master of Disaster explains the first action items in an emergency: 1) survey the damage, 2) get financial support as quickly as possible, 3) establish communications with staff members and line up workers ASAP, and 4) isolate the damage. Next, go to a triage approach, determining how you can get the most value with your available resources. Establish your priorities, create a plan and a schedule.

The site addresses security issues and contains links to several general and library-related web sites on disaster planning.

Since his "learning experience," Mr. Schultz has become a frequent speaker on disaster preparedness and recovery. Since the disaster, he has been in charge of the $42 million Albertus Project recovery effort with operations in three cities to handle various parts of the outsourced project.

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