Related product Collections Management

Disaster Planning 101: Staff Training on Disaster Preparedness

Gabriel Hamer, Conservation Technician, The Newberry Library

As faithful CARLI newsletter readers know, our Preservation Tips this year focus on disaster preparedness. Securing the resources and funding to prepare your institution for a disaster, writing a solid disaster plan, and the other topics we will cover this year are all crucial – but even the best-written disaster plan can’t do much without properly trained staff!

If your institution is just starting to think about disaster prep or, like mine, rebuilding preparedness after the pandemic and high staff turnover, it may be helpful to break staff training goals down into three categories: short-term, long-term, and institutional. It takes time to bring coworkers and information networks up to speed, so it helps to be realistic and spread tasks out along a rough timeline.

Once you’ve set your sights on disaster preparedness, here are some things you can do in the short term:

  1. Hold meetings with library staff to share information
    • Go over locations of emergency kits, floor plans, etc.
    • Brief rundown of preservation guidelines in an emergency
    • Keep coworkers informed of future plans
  2. Update handouts and make sure they are distributed across the library

In the longer term, staff training for emergencies can include:

  1. Online training
  2. Hands-on training
    • See this previous Preservation Tip on “tabletop” exercises with staff
    • Outside workshops – check with local, regional, and national organizations; The Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) and the Conservation Center for Art & Historical Artifacts (CCAHA) provide training opportunities.
  3. Emergency drills – work with your facilities, security departments, or local first responders to (re)start regular fire and tornado drills!

While hands-on training is important, institutional preparedness is a training-adjacent issue that can bridge the gap between present and future staff. For example, at my library, few coworkers had experienced the in-house wet salvage workshops conducted in the past, but we were able to use the informational handouts, emergency kit lists, and previous versions of the disaster response plan to help keep our disaster procedures consistent with the past and reconstruct what we would need to do going forward. Having physical copies of preparedness materials accessible and labeled around the library as well as digital versions on a library-wide shared drive creates a paper trail for your institution to follow.

Stay safe this winter – and be on the lookout for more disaster prep tips from the Preservation Committee in the coming months!

Return to Disaster Planning 101.