Watch Out for Midwest Disasters

Midwest Disaster Types

Information for Libraries and Their Collections

Melanie R. Schoenborn, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and
Joseph (Joe)Feigl, III, LIS graduate student at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

​Printable pamphlet (8.5" x 11", trifold)

Types of Disasters

storm cloud with lightningLIGHTNING/THUNDERSTORM

the flashing of light produced by a discharge of atmospheric electricity; a storm accompanied by lightning and thunder usually including rain

This type of disaster causes damage to magnetic media and electronics.  The typical solution to this problem is preventative:  make multiple copies which are stored and accessed from multiple physical sites.


the active principle of burning, characterized by the heat and light of combustion of a large tract of land covered with trees and underbrush

This type of disaster causes burned materials or possibly damaged or destroyed buildings.  Burned materials need to be evaluated for rescue by cooling to room temperature, cleaning with proper dust rags or absorbent cloth and possibly Absorene, drying them out if wet and then thoroughly vacuuming all signatures or parts.


an overflowing of water on usually dry land; inundate; deluge

This type of disaster may cause materials to become wet, waterlogged or molded, while buildings are damaged or destroyed. Drying materials as quickly as possible to reduce the chance of mold is of utmost importance.


the absence of physical force or energy

This type of disaster can be related to lightning/thunderstorm, fire of any type, flood, tornado, earthquake or nuclear disaster.
Preservation helps come from communicating with your local power company, investing in back-up generators, and having an ample supply of flashlights and batteries.

building fireSTRUCTURE FIRE

the active principle of burning, characterized by the heat and light of combustion, something built or constructed

Your library, museum, or part of your collection  within your building on fire or extinguished from a fire can be devastating but having a disaster plan on where to start with recovery is essential.
Follow the first responder protocols.


a happening of chemistry that causes great harm or damage

This type of disaster can be localized or unrelated to your building as in airborne chemical disasters, which may require evacuation for hours or days. This may also be within your building so be sure your disaster preparedness plan includes all necessary knowledge, including the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) info for all products by name and Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) number housed in the building.


a violent whirling wind, usually accompanied by a rapidly rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that usually destroys everything along its narrow path

Tornadoes are common but so are straight line winds; both can cause damage to buildings and material contents. These events can expose collections to the elements, so follow the recommendations from FLOOD listed earlier.

earthquake EARTHQUAKE

a shaking or trembling of the crust of the earth, caused by underground volcanic forces or by breaking and shifting of rock beneath the surface

There are six earthquake prone zones in the Midwest. If your building is within one of the zones, be informed about where your collection can be stored during building repair or replacement. Common kinds of damage to materials are those from FIRE, FLOOD and LIGHTNING/THUNDERSTORM.


an explosion happening within a power plant that causes atomic nuclei to be disbursed and cause great harm or damage

This type of disaster can make your building and all of its contents unusable.  Compare the Three Mile Island accident in the U.S. with the Chernobyl accident in the Ukraine, specifically chapter seven on emergency preparedness. 


Webster's New World Dictionary. Cleveland: World, 1964. Print.
Simple definitions taken for each type of disaster.

Images were retrieved and adapted from The Noun Project and should be attributed to:

All preservation and disaster preparedness information not cited above are compiled on CARLI’s Preservation Resources Webliography. Please see the Webliography for additional resources and tips for preparing for and handling disasters.

Continue to the next article: Disaster Planning: Getting Started

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