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17. A final word: disaster preparedness planning

17.1 Why prepare for a disaster?

In the aftermath of some disasters, an earthquake, for example, where a building's archival or library materials are strewn about, time is of no importance; there is plenty of it to clean the mess and make the necessary assessments and evaluations. But when a calamity is accompanied by water-damage, a different set of rules applies. You have only hours at your disposal to take appropriate action to retard physical and chemical deterioration to cellulosic materials, and prevent biological infection from setting in. This is where preparedness planning comes into the picture. A well-prepared plan that permits the orderly deployment of personnel to their preassigned tasks and responsibilities for the execution of recovery operations, operations, can convert a potentially chaotic situation to one you can classify as a lower level emergency.

17.2 What a disaster preparedness plan contains

A Disaster Preparedness Plan is no more than a set of instructions to tell people what to do upon the discovery of a disaster. It is drafted, discussed, coordinated, and finalized before and not during a disaster; it is kept up to date. It lists names and agencies to call in an emergency, action to take while awaiting help, appropriate methods for recovery of water-damaged materials, sources of supplies and materials, location of freezing and cold storage facilities (freeze stabilization could become the most important element in the plan), vacuum-drying and freeze-drying facilities, Dames and where to contact conservators, chemists, electricians, plumbers, fumigators, etc. In short, all those whose help might be required.

Recommended reading on disaster planning and preparedness can be found under REFERENCES. See 5, 8, 69, 73, 74, 75.

17.3 Prevention: central to disaster preparedness

Disaster preparedness is incomplete if preventive measures are not included. Such measures contain the systematic inspection of those elements in a building that are potential risks or hazards to the integrity of an archival or library collection. For this purpose, a method can be developed inspection sheets, for example - to flag the elements in the two specific areas that usually constitute a risk: Fire Hazards and Water Hazards. Another area that must bear close and periodic examination is the condition and adequacy of firefighting gear and equipment.

Under Fire Hazards check such items as security of inflammable materials and trash, condition of electrical systems, appliances, heating system, fuel deposits, etc. Under Water Hazards check potential dangers such as drainage and supply lines, steam pipes, water tanks, basins sinks; condition of roof, gutters, downspouts, exterior water mains, drainage, etc. An inspection sheet can be devised to inspect and record the condition of the fire prevention system and include inspection of fire extinguishers, detectors, alarms, etc.

Recommended reading on preventive measures can be found under REFERENCES. See 39, 70, 71, 72, 74, 75.

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