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.
- 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
American library Association
Preservation Information and Disaster Planning Information
From the Rhode Island Office of Library and Information Services
Harris County Public Library (TX)