Conclusion to Disaster Planning Project

Anne Thomason, Lake Forest College

The CARLI membership told the CARLI Preservation Committee as part of our 2015 Preservation Survey that disaster planning was a topic in which help was greatly needed. Thus, for our 2016-2017 annual project, the Preservation Committee chose to outline the steps to create a disaster plan. Our theme for our disaster planning project was “Slow and Steady Wins the Preservation Race.” 

When I think of disasters, I confess to thinking of my favorite disaster films, such as Towering Inferno, or the admittedly ridiculous 2012, in which virtually every natural disaster decimated Earth in a matter of hours. These are the disasters very few of us (hopefully) will experience. And, perhaps that is one reason why writing disaster plans may not always seem like a priority: the chances of a devastating earthquake or chemical disaster are slim.  Of course, ask someone who survived Hurricane Katrina, or even a terrible mold outbreak, and yes, you will find out these major disasters happened and that having a disaster plan made recovery simpler and more efficient, or the lack of one resulted in another disaster. I think remembering that most “disasters” are not on the level of our favorite disaster films might encourage us to get our plans written so we can deal with the small scale problems any institution with a physical presence will have.

I wonder if disaster plans should be called something else. They could be part of a business continuity plan, or a facilities management plan, or an “accident plan.” What I’m getting at is that libraries might be more likely to finish the plan if the work involved was part of a daily routine. 

Getting started and creating a plan are, for my institution anyway, the most difficult steps. One cannot simply sit down and write a disaster plan in two hours: as stated in our article on Getting Started and as a running theme through all of the articles we wrote this past year, writing a disaster plan requires diligently finding information on staff, facilities, and contractors. While some minor issues may be able to be fixed in house, large problems inevitably require calling experts. For smaller institutions this is even more true. 

Perhaps one way to get started is to consider if you already have processes in place that might become part of a disaster plan. Perhaps you had a small flood and wrote down what you did during that experience and could use those notes to start writing a full-fledged plan. Your organization might have a phone tree in case of an emergency and that easily could be part of a disaster plan. If your institution is large enough to have a facilities department, check with them as they may already have contractors with whom they prefer to work. With these pieces identified, some elements of a plan are already done and only need to be put into a coherent whole. 

I may not be the best person to write a conclusion about writing a disaster plan as my institution does not have an official one. We don’t even have a phone tree! It is time to take a deep breath, recognize that even “minor” incidents can cause problems, and while a full fledged disaster out of Hollywood is unlikely, having a disaster plan in place will make recovering from even the smallest, unexpected circumstance go much smoother. 

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