Category Archives: Disaster planning

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma Response Information

We have posted about hurricane awareness and disaster response before. With two major hurricanes hitting the United States so far this season, it is time to round up some information for those hit by these and other storms.

Help for Cultural Institutions

The National Heritage Responders (NHR) – formerly the American Institute for Conservation – Collections Emergency Response Team (AIC-CERT) – responds to the needs of cultural institutions during emergencies and disasters through coordinated efforts with first responders, state agencies, vendors and the public. Volunteers can provide advice and referrals by phone at 202.661.8068. Requests for onsite assistance will be forwarded by the volunteer to the NHR Coordinator and Emergency Programs Coordinator for response. Less urgent questions can also be answered by emailing info@conservation-us.org.

Cultural institutions in FEMA-designated disaster areas of Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and other impacted states and U.S. territories can apply immediately for NEH Chairman’s Emergency Grants of up to $30,000 to preserve documents, books, photographs, art works, historical objects, sculptures, and structures damaged by the hurricane and subsequent flooding. Applications for emergency grants are available here (Word Document).

If you are ready to start recovery you can use the Emergency Response and Salvage  Wheel ro recover collections. The Wheel is also available in an app on both Android and Apple devices. Many other useful apps are out there to help you find information or organize a response.

Local and state organizations such as state archives, museums, university libraries, etc., will have experts on staff that can help answer collection emergency questions. Many states also have state-wide preservation groups with experts who can help (e.g. the North Carolina Preservation Consortium, LYRASIS, Texas Library Association).

September is National Preparedness Month. Even if your institution was not affected by recent storms, now is a good time to review your current disaster plans and training.  The Alliance for Response links cultural heritage and emergency response representatives. There may already be a local AFR network near you or you could consider forming one.

https://www.usa.gov/hurricane-irma
Recovery Guidelines for Collections and Personal Items
Other useful information
 If you know of other useful resources, please leave them in the comments.

Never, Ever Tempt Fate

Remember a couple weeks ago when I mused that we might stack two folding tables on top of each other to dry twice the amount of books in the same footprint? I can report that it works really well.

Photo Aug 16, 3 48 10 PMWe found some additional damp books  from the disaster we had a couple weeks ago. Since the tables were still set up I decided to test my hypothesis. It worked really well. As you can see below I made sure there were plenty of fans to circulate the air around the top layer. The books are drying nicely and we can still move around this small space with relative ease.

Photo Aug 16, 3 47 41 PMThat said, I’m going to keep quiet the next time I mutter, “I wonder if this would work in the next disaster?”

Quick Pic: Double Decker Drying

File under, “Why didn’t I think of that before?”

Photo Aug 05, 9 15 56 AM
Pro-tip: Use folding tables stacked two-high for drying wet books with a more compact footprint.

This morning I stacked two of our folding tables on top of each other to allow the tops to dry before putting them away. It occurred to me we could have created this two-tiered drying table to dry the wet books we got this week. We could dry the same number of books using half the floor space. Alternatively, we can dry twice as many books on the same footprint if we had four tables, in two stacks of two. I need to remember this for next time. I think it would work as long as you were sure there was enough air flow around all the tables. Am I the last person to come up with this?

A Conservator’s Nightmare

I grew up in Dayton, Ohio. You don’t grow up in that city without knowing two things: the Wright Brothers invented the airplane there and thus Dayton was “first in flight”  (sorry North Carolina); and the city suffered a devastating flood in March of 1913. The Great Miami River flooded downtown Dayton killing almost 400 people and displacing tens of thousands. You can still see remnants of the high water mark if you look closely at the historic buildings that survived.

1913 Flood Damage at the Library

Damage to the main library in Dayton during the 1913 flood.
Image from Dayton Metro Library Local History Flickr page.

Floods and disasters are never far from a collection conservator’s mind. Just a couple weeks ago the entire American Institute for Conservation’s annual conference was on the topic of disasters. Even our own lab has been flooded during the Rubenstein Library renovation. All this is to say stuff happens, and we always seem to think about it.

Which brings me to my very true story. The other night I had a nightmare that seemed to combine just about every worst-case-scenario event that could happen to a conservator. The scene: the conservation lab. I am in my office and I hear a loud noise above my head. All of a sudden out of the ceiling comes a huge circular saw and it is cutting through my office walls sort of like how Bugs Bunny cut Florida off from the United States.

“No one told me we were under construction,” I said to myself.  At the same time, there is water coming from everywhere as if a live water pipe had been cut. It’s coming up fast and we are scrambling to get things out of the way. While all of this is happening, I am trying to conduct a tour through the lab. I said under my breath, “This is about three times the number of people Development told me would be here,” but I carried on because that is what we do, right?  I was trying to ignore what was happening around me and get the thirty or so people on the tour to focus on the amazing projects that my conservators were working on. Needless to say, it didn’t go very well. The last thing I remember is thinking, “How will I represent this on our statistics.” Then I woke up.

What does it all mean? Have you had conservation nightmares?

It’s Hurricane Preparedness Week!

Hurricane Floyd hits the East coast in 1999. Courtesy Earth Observatory website. http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/FloydIntro/

This week is Hurricane Preparedness Week. Don’t be fooled, just because your institution is inland doesn’t mean you can’t be affected by hurricanes. The remnants of large storms can move inland for hundreds or thousands of miles causing flooding and spawning tornadoes. Hurricane Fran hit landfall at Bald Head Island on September 5, 1996. It’s 115 mph winds carried inland and dumped 8.8 inches of rain in Durham, the highest recorded rainfall at the time. You can still see the remnants of the damage of Fran in some areas of Durham.

The 2016 hurricane prediction forecast is for a very active year. If you didn’t review and update your disaster plan on May Day or during Preservation Week, now is the time. At the very least, update your institutional phone tree and make sure your vendor contacts are updated.

If you have more time to devote to preparedness, check out NEDCC’s D-Plan, a free disaster planning site that allows you to customize your plan to your institution. NEDCC also has a good handbook for developing a  community based disaster response called Coordinated Statewide Emergency Preparedness (CoStEP).

We have written before about useful apps for disaster situations. Downloading these now could help you during an emergency situation. There is also a lot of disaster preparedness and recovery information online. Be a good consumer and start with trusted sources such as the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC), the North Carolina Preservation Consortium (NCPC), or the American Institute for Conservation (AIC).

 

 

 

 

There’s An App For That

I am always on the hunt for useful tools. The other day I had a large number of books and I needed to record the bar codes and transfer them into an excel file. I don’t have a laptop at work, but I do have an iPad. I searched the app store and found “Bar-Code.” It looked like it would do what I needed so I downloaded it. Within a couple of minutes my project was underway.

First, I scanned each bar code with the iPad camera:

photo 1

Each bar code is scanned as an image and is transcribed on the right-hand column.

photo 2

When you are done, you have the choice of what to do with the data. I chose to email the list to myself so I could put it easily into an Excel file.

photo 3

Using this app beat writing down all the bar code numbers and retyping them into a spreadsheet when I got back to my office. It saved a lot of time. The free version, which I used, does not save the data once you email it. I believe the paid version of this particular app will allow you to save your data.

I think this app, or a similar one, could be very useful during a disaster situation when you needed to track items going offsite for freezing. You could scan each item going into a crate, then send each crate’s inventory to yourself as an email. I think I would make each crate a separate email in case the network or app crashed unexpectedly. I would hate to record hundreds of bar codes then have the network crash or an email not go through for some reason.

What apps have you found useful in your preservation or conservation duties and how have you used them? Please share ideas in the comments section.

Water, Water Everywhere

Construction crew helps remove supplies.
Construction crew helps remove supplies.

Our Facebook and Twitter followers will know that we had a construction-related water leak in the lab last week that effectively closed our services except for responding to emergencies or rush requests. We were extremely lucky that no one got hurt and no collections got damaged thanks to the quick action of the lab staff.

The leak occurred in our photo documentation and supply rooms. The construction crew had to cut out the baseboards to get air into the walls. They also pulled up the cork floor in the two rooms to facilitate drying. We have had several industrial dehumidifiers and blowers going since last Wednesday but the cork floor is still wet in places. Hopefully it will be dry enough by next week to get the repairs underway.

Besides the noise, the worst part has been the fact that all of our photo equipment and supplies had to be evacuated to the main lab. It’s a bit maze-like trying to get around the room, and finding supplies is a hunt-and-peck endeavor. Conservation work continues but it has slowed down considerably and will remain so until our space is back to normal. We ask for everyone’s patience while we work through the recovery.

supplies in lab 3
Panorama shot of supplies in main lab (click to enlarge).

The big lesson I learned is that it takes a village to respond and recover from even a small disaster. The construction company has been extremely helpful in coordinating the dry-out. Our colleagues in the Digital Production Center helped with the initial response. Staff from Shipping & Receiving were on hand to help vacuum water. Housekeeping has helped move trash. There are many more to thank for coming to our aid. We were lucky, it could have been much worse. And I now have clean, dry socks in my disaster kit.

 

Hello Andrea! aka Welcome Hurricane Season

radarHurricane season officially started June 1st and runs through November 30th. Today the first named storm, Andrea, hit the North Carolina coast as a tropical storm and its rain stretched into Durham. We are supposed to get over four inches of rain, and yet we are still in a moderate drought. Go figure.

With all this rain it’s a good time to talk about disaster preparedness. There are many free apps for Android, iPhone and Blackberry devices that would be useful in a disaster.

The Red Cross has several mobile apps, including ones that will track weather warnings including hurricanes, flood advisories and tornado warnings. They also have apps for earthquakes, first aid, wildfires, and a shelter tracker. All useful information when you need it.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has developed a mobile app with maps, recovery and safety tips, and information on building a disaster kit. It also has interactive lists for storing your emergency contact list and meet-up locations.

ems
Disaster Wheel in app form.

Heritage Preservation has created a mobile app based on its popular Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel. It outlines the steps to take in a disaster from “safety first” to “documentation,” and includes recovery information based on the type of materials effected. While the actual wheel seems more useful, this first version is pretty good and would be helpful if your paper copy floated away.

Of course all of these work best if you have power for your phone. You might consider putting a hand-cranked emergency radio/cell phone charger. I’m putting two of these on my Amazon wish list, one for my disaster kit at work, one for home use.

Oh, and do you have a clean change of clothes and dry socks in your disaster kit?

Happy Monday (or, How Your Day Can Change With One Email)

I had big plans to get a lot done today, then I read my email. Overnight we had a leak on the fourth floor. Luckily (?!) a student was sitting right there when it happened, so the overnight staff was alerted quickly and sprang into action.

Photo 4
Water is diverted into trash cans, the shelving is draped and we have a fan going to help move the air and dry things out.

Shortly after arriving on scene, our head of Shipping & Receiving told me he discovered the problem: a roof hatch was accidentally left open and the pooled water leaked from the mechanical room on the fifth floor to the fourth level where it founds its way out into the stacks.

Photo 2
At least it was a gentle spring rain and not a torrential summer downpour!

Nothing was damaged, which is kind of amazing considering the ceiling tile fell down and there is about three inches of water in that large trash can. Our thanks goes out to:

  • The anonymous student who happened to be studying in that very spot and who alerted staff to the problem (I wish I knew who you were!).
  • Library staff, Annette, Stephanie and Stephen for their quick response.
  • Charles and Pat from Shipping who helped identify the problem.
  • Lester from Facilities who came this morning to fix the problem.
  • Donny from Housekeeping who helped clean up the water.
  • Jennifer from Conservation for help with draping more plastic this morning, and for re-ordering supplies for the disaster closet.

Hopefully I’m not forgetting anyone, if I am, thank you! Disaster response is truly a team effort and it is so heartening to see our team work together.

Photo 7
The reflection of the open hatch in a puddle of water. It’s kind of beautiful, no?