Emergency Management Partnerships with Government Officials

Libraries that assist communities with emergency services need to determine in which phase they will participate: planning, preparing, responding, and recovering.


  • Get to know key officials and agencies involved with emergency management (EM).
  • Talk with EM officials about how the library can help with emergency preparedness response and recovery.
  • Offer to display and distribute information (print and electronic).
  • Ask that a link to the library’s website be placed on the EM website.
  • Develop library page on emergency preparedness for customers before meeting with officials and publicize the site.


Library Preparations

  • Prepare and review disaster plan with staff.
  • Review supplies that are needed:
    • Flashlights, batteries, power strips
    • What will you need to help customers recharge various devices?

Library User Preparations

  • Develop materials for distribution and/or distribute materials from other agencies. (in English and other languages)
    • Use library website to help inform users.
    • Offer online tutorials on texting since this is often the only means of communication when there are widespread power outrages. Look at other technologies.
    • Link to your jurisdiction’s Emergency Management website.
    • Offer in-house and online programs about specific emergencies such as hurricanes, epidemics, terrorism, chemical accidents, etc.
    • Publicize the role of the library as a source for emergency preparedness and recovery information.

Responding Before the Emergency Strikes

  • Update and/or add to website information for public.
  • Use social networking sites to disseminate information.
  • Listen to conference calls and other communications for jurisdiction updates.
  • Publicize the library’s role on website and local news media.
  • Make sure all management personnel can text, has cell phone access and relevant phone numbers.
  • Put needed signs on doors about book return, any information on shelters, etc.

The Recovery Process

  • When power is restored, update website with information on library openings and closures, update information on where to get help.
  • Let Emergency Management know which libraries are open and have power.
  • Secure resources for special services like cooling centers or locations where people can escape the cold.
  • Emergency Management will have better access to media. They can let media know about library services. Media information will need to be updated on a daily basis. Speak with Emergency Management staff in advance about this.
  • Hold daily library management briefings to update on all recovery efforts. Have a plan for distributing service status information to staff with and without power in branch locations.
  • Use Social Networking sites (Facebook, MySpace and Twitter) to connect to and update library users. Many users can access these sites on their cell phones – especially useful if your website is down.
  • Let the public know that library computers are connected and available for people needing to complete FEMA forms, etc. Also, let them know that staff is available to assist them.
  • Tell your story as you recover and after the recovery process.


Emergency Management Sources

Featherstone, R.A., Lyon, B.J., Ruffin, A.B. (2008). Library roles in disaster response: an oral history project by the National Library of Medicine. Journal of the Medical Library Association,96(4), 343-350. Abstract available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/PubMed

Useful Links

American library Association

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA)

Red Cross

Salvation Army

US Department of Homeland security

Preservation Information and Disaster Planning Information

From the Rhode Island Office of Library and Information Services

Library Websites

Harris County Public Library (TX)