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.

Planning

  • 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.

Preparing

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.

Related

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
http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/advocacy/federallegislation/govinfo/disasterpreparedness/index.cfm

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
http://emergency.cdc.gov/planning/

Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA)
http://www.fema.org

Red Cross
http://www.redcross.org/

Salvation Army
http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/

US Department of Homeland security
http://www.dhs.gov/

Preservation Information and Disaster Planning Information

From the Rhode Island Office of Library and Information Services
http://www.olis.ri.gov/services/preservation/nedccagr.php

Library Websites

Harris County Public Library (TX)
http://www.hcpl.net/ref/fihurricane.htm