Are you Prepared?

Monday, January 6, 2020

At the recent 2019 North Carolina Preservation Consortium (NCPC) Conference, we were reminded of the unnatural (or man-made) disasters that can wreak havoc on collections, such as older pipes bursting and leaking toilets. As the weather turns colder and frost appears on outside surfaces, we need to think about the internal structures that house our diverse collections. Many of the state’s cultural institutions, organizations, and libraries are living in older buildings with older pipes. Do you ever think about how you would respond to a burst pipe in your collection spaces? GHL disaster preparedness kit

An Example

One of the real-life examples shared at the conference came from the Office of State Archaeology (OSA). The Research Lab for the OSA is housed in an old textbook warehouse. Over a weekend, a pipe burst which caused standing water in the lab. When the point person was contacted and showed up to survey the damage, the electricity was still on. Talk about a dangerous situation – standing water in a space with computers and other machinery still plugged in and electricity still coursing through the lines. Once the power was turned off, the OSA Research Lab and Raleigh Office staff were able to address the situation in a timely manner, saving much of their collection and preventing further damage.

Are you Prepared?

If that situation happened to you, how prepared are you to respond? Do you have a ready answer for the following questions?

  • If a pipe burst, how soon would you know? Is there an alarm system?
  • Once notified, who is your point person to investigate the situation?
  • Who would you contact to turn off the power? 
  • How would you submit a request? Where is this information stored? Is it accessible?
  • What are your next immediate steps?

While these questions may be overwhelming at first, there are easy and simple steps you can take to mitigate disaster when it happens.

Preparing for the Worst

Creating Immediate Disaster Kits before such a disaster is a crucial first step. OSA had a prepared kit and was able to use many items in their kit including paper towels, trash bags, fans, and drying racks. These items helped contain the damage to their collection.

At the Government and Heritage Library (GHL), we are taking steps to be more prepared for disasters and emergencies to our collections. To do so, the GHL Collections Management Team created four Immediate Response Kits. The kits contain the essential supplies you would need to begin rescuing or protecting items in your collections.

What’s included in an Immediate Disaster Kit?

Supplies included in the kits vary depending on the make-up of a collection. The GHL collections contain mostly textual items such as books, documents, and maps. As a result, we included:

  • Polyethylene plastic sheeting,
  • Absorbent mat pads,
  • Duct tape,
  • Utility knives,
  • Flashlights, and 
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as N95 respirators, non-latex gloves, safety goggles, and headlamps.

Where do I store my supplies?

GHL purchased four plastic rolling trash cans to store all supplies. Storing supplies in a sealed container is best because it keeps supplies off the floor preventing them from becoming ruined. Once stocked, we placed a rolling bin on each floor of our stacks.

How long do kits last?

Kits should be re-stocked after any supplies have been used. Schedule an annual check of the kits if the supplies were not used throughout the year. A good way to remember to check the kits is to also review the Disaster Preparedness Plan each year. 

GHL disaster preparedness kit

Preparedness is Key

Look around your collections now and determine areas for improvement. Think about the burst pipe or the old leaking toilet. Something so mundane can become a disaster waiting to happen. Would you be ready to respond? If not, a little preparation can go a long way.


Rebecca Forbes, Collection Management Team