Library Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management

Emergency situations can happen unexpectedly anytime and anywhere.  Although emergency situations at the Bellevue University Library are extremely rare, policies and procedures have been put in place should a disastrous event or emergency occurs.  According to the ALA (American Library Association), a library disaster is any incident “that threatens human safety and/or damages or threatens to damage a library’s collections, contents, facilities or services.”  Although the word “disaster” is a strong word, generally synonymous with “catastrophe,” it is important to note that an event does not have to be catastrophic in order for it to be disastrous in a library.

Proactive measures designed to handle medical emergencies and disruptions in service were created approximately 7 years ago.  Due to recent upgrades, as well as personnel changes, we decided to take a closer look at the Bellevue University Library’s Disaster Preparedness Manual and update it to reflect current practices.  The purpose of the Disaster Preparedness Manual is to be a resource should a medical emergency, disruption in service (such as a power outage or water main break) or emergency occur that would jeopardize the building’s structure, the library collection, or the safety of library staff and patrons (customers).

For example, in the event of a natural disaster, such as a tornado, the Library has two classrooms designated as tornado shelters for library staff and patrons.  If library materials are damaged due to water or mold or fire, steps have been put in place to salvage damaged library materials.  The Disaster Plan Manual also provides the names and phone numbers of local companies that specialize in recovering library materials.  Other topics covered in the manual include steps to repair insect damage, vandalism, and flood damage.

In addition to preserving library materials, the Library’s Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management Manual also includes the necessary steps needed in the case of other rare situations such as a gas leak, bomb threat, shelving unit collapse, suspicious package, active shooter, and medical emergency.

It is our hope that we will never need to use the manual, but we are also mindful that these situations could occur.  We have the peace of mind that current processes, procedures, and resources are readily available to keep the Library staff, patrons, and resources safe and secure.

Originally posted in the Freeman/Lozier Library’s quarterly newsletter, More Than BooksV. 21 No. 3, Summer 2018.

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