Pandemic Preparedness

Topics to include in an individual library policy Common Sense Prevention  I  Federal Resources State and Local Government Resources Additional Online Resources Background Information

A pandemic is an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population. (Merriam-Webster Online

This page provides information about preparing for a pandemic, and many of the resources are specific to influenza outbreaks.

The primary flu information resource is, managed by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains a page with current information about ebola. The Obama Administration has also created a website with information about ebola, and the United States' response.

Topics to include in an individual library policy

Topics to include in an individual library policy--after being sure these are consistent with the plans by the larger jurisdiction:

  • Criteria for closing the library
  • Employee policies for sick leave, payroll and banking/financial issues, working from home
  • Mandated documentation of procedures or cross training so others can take over for sick employees.
  • Policies for social distancing -- that is, removing a number of chairs so people aren't sitting close to each other, or limiting the number of people who can come in at any one time, or taking out coat racks, and similar things that keep people and their belongings separate from each other.
  • Criteria for suspending story times and other library programs.
  • Provision of masks and gloves along with the training of staff iin their removal and disposal.
  • Standards for the cleaning of bathrooms, railings and door knobs, telephones, keyboards, counters, and cleaning of workstations/offices of employees who go home sick, emptying of wastebaskets, etc. etc. etc.
  • Setting a schedule for seeing to the critical needs of the facility if the library is closed for an extended time (boiler and building checks by custodians, book drop, payroll and banking considerations).
  • Communications plan for reaching staff and for communicating with the public
  • Means for continuing to provide information services for the public, such as online ordering of materials and pick up from a table in the lobby at certain times, or expansion of online services
  • Accommodation of the needs of poor people in the community who may not have a home subscription to the local newspaper or a working home computer
  • Education of the public in advance of an epidemic
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Common Sense Prevention

NPR's hints on handwashing A little light-hearted, but accurate.

Federal Resources

See Planning & Preparedness at, which provides guidance in the cases of both Seasonal Flu and Pandemic Flu, for several groups and situations, including businesses, the general community, and schools. Are you prepared for a flu outbreak or pandemic? The guidance, checklists, and resources in this section are intended to help you create a plan.

Seasonal Influenza (Flu) at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has Information for Specific Groups and a broad range of Free Resources, everything from print-ready brochures to videos to podcasts to eCards.

Also see Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).

For some guidelines for preparing an overall preparedness plan, see, for example, FEMA's Guide for All-Hazard Emergency Operations Planning (PDF document). While the focus of this document is planning for natural and other disasters (floods, earthquakes), it does emphasize the importance of working with other governmental agencies and knowing about state-specific laws regarding some aspects of a response plan.

Pandemic Disease Outbreaks and Diseases with Pandemic Potential by the Disaster Information Management Resource Center, a part of the National Library of Medicine,  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, offers resources in English and Spanish.

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State and Local Government Resources

CT Flu Watch from the State of Connecticut Pandemic Flu Task Force. The March 26, 2007 State Librarian's Report includes the Library's response to a statewide test of agency Continuity of Operations Plans (COOP) for a simulated pandemic influenza outbreak, conducted by the State of Connecticut on February 27, 2007.

Illinois Department of Public Health offers statistics, printable handouts in both English and Spanish, and links to other useful resources.

King County (Washington) Public Health has prepared a comprehensive website on Pandemic Flu Preparedness. The site includes the King County response plan, as well as informational links to a range of other topics.

Alaska Division of Public Health Pandemic Influenza Response Plan last updated February 2011. (PDF, 557KB)

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Additional Online Resources

Pandemic Influenza Planning for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Access to examples of completed plans is restricted but planning guidelines, templates, and FAQs are publicly available.

Virginia Commonwealth University Bioterrorism Preparedness (a "pathfinder" to information)

Flu germs: How long can they live outside the body?, from the Mayo Clinic.

Pandemic Flu information and resources from the multi-state Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN)

ebrary H1N1 (Influenza) Searchable Information Center, a publicly available research center with a searchable database of documents pertaining to the H1N1 influenza pandemic.

Automatically updating links, RSS Feeds, and Widgets

CDC Twitter Feed

Widgets for your website, linking to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Department of Health & Human Services updates.

Google Flu Trends, a service that predicts flu trends by tracking flu related queries on the company's search engine.

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Background Information

There is also the Health Library for Disasters with such documents as "Community Emergency Preparedness: A Manual for Managers and Policy-Makers"

1918 Influenza response

As for the response by libraries in 1918, there is remarkably little about this in the library press. In early 2006, there were summits in each state to discussion avian flu preparedness; see History of Flu Pandemics for a listing of what happened in each of the states in 1918. A search of the page suggests that libraries, along with other places where the public might gather, were closed at the height of the outbreak in 1918.

The U.S. National Archives has mounted an online exhibit, "The Deadly Virus" that explores the course of the epidemic in the United States. The photographs and other documents included in the exhibit show some of the steps the public took to avoid the contagion, which afflicted one-quarter of the U.S. population and caused the life expectancy to drop by 12 years in just one year.

The response by libraries was also covered by Nora J. Quinlan in "In Flew Enza," American Libraries, Dec. 2007, Vol. 38 Issue 11, p.50-53. Includes a short section on planning for an epidemic.

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last updated 27 October 2014