Creating a Plan – Templates for Success

Jenny Dunbar, Archivist, College of DuPage

Fire. Floods. Earthquake. Tornados. Chemical disasters.

It is overwhelming to consider the possibility of these catastrophic events, but as the caretakers of important collections, archivists and librarians must make a plan. Luckily, there are an abundance of models and example disaster plans that one can consult. What follows is a guideline of basics to consider when making a disaster plan as well as links to useful websites that will assist in creating your plan.

The first step in creating a disaster plan is to assemble an emergency response team or teams. The team will be responsible for compiling a comprehensive written document that addresses the two overall goals of a disaster plan: safety and the physical recovery of the building and collection. In order to draft a written disaster plan, one must first identify what types of disasters and situations are possible, and what risks to persons, the building, and the collection are likely.  After such potential risks are identified, a plan can be created that suits the specific needs of the institution.

The main components of a disaster response plan should include:

  • Contact list
    • Library administrative recovery team
    • Institutional contacts including the disaster team, building or facilities manager, and internal disaster response/recovery team
    • Local fire and first responders as well as regional contacts and FEMA
  • Procedures 
    • Immediate – during the event
    • Directly after the event
    • Conservation procedures to aid in the physical recovery of the damaged collection
  • List of supplies and emergency kits and their location in the building(s)
  • Maps to assist in evacuation
  • Document and maps listing the location of emergency systems in the building, such as utilities’ shut-offs
  • List of vendors to assist in collection recovery
  • Insurance coverage information – broker name and contact information, carrier, and policy number
  • Inventory of essential and irreplaceable materials, high priority materials in the areas of collections, bibliographic records, administrative records, and equipment
  • Identify backup storage areas triage. During the recovery efforts, a member of the disaster team should be responsible for inventorying material moved offsite.

It should be noted that a disaster plan is a living document. Collections, staff, and vendors change, so on a regular basis, the disaster response team should meet to review and update the plan. Copies of the plan should be kept in multiple locations and also be available online, so that it will be accessible in the event that the building is not safe.

What follows is a brief list of disaster plan templates and models that can be modified to suit the particular needs of most institutions.

Online disaster plan models

  • The California Preservation Program (CPP) has created a comprehensive template that can serve as a starting point. 
  • The Connecting to Collections Care began in 2010 as Connecting to Collections Online Community, a part of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) national initiative, Connecting to Collections (C2C). Recently, the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation took over management of the program. Check the Web resources and Disaster Plan Templates at the end of the page for templates and other helpful disaster related links.                                          
  • Minnesota Historical Society disaster plan
  • In addition to conservation and preservation services, the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) provides disaster response, emergency assistance, and help with disaster planning. Here is an excellent set of pamphlets dealing with emergency management.
  • Included in the NEDCC list is a worksheet for outlining a disaster plan.
  • In addition to the pamphlets and worksheets above, NEDCC offers dPlan, a free online tool to help simplify the process of creating a comprehensive disaster plan. You may try out their demo or sign up for the free tool here.

Links to other disaster resources

Continue to the next article: In-House Management of Disasters

Return to Disaster Planning