Disasters may occur suddenly and without warning. Regular drills and practice before a disaster strikes will help staff and volunteers to implement the plan even in worst-case scenarios. As a disaster unfolds, put library-wide and branch specific emergency action plans (EAPs) into action.
If someone is injured or an emergency originates in the library, immediately call 911. While this may seem obvious, staff and volunteers may be unclear about when to call 911 or who is authorized to make the call. Make sure that your emergency response plan provides sufficient guidance for the likely disaster scenarios you identified when developing your plan.
Evacuate or Shelter in Place
Based on the disaster at hand and the immediate needs of patrons, staff and volunteers, determine whether it is appropriate to evacuate, shelter in place or lock down library facilities. If you are not sure what to do, err on the side of caution. Always act in a way that prioritizes safety and human life – books and materials can be replaced, lives cannot.
Assume Disaster Response Roles
Once immediate safety concerns have been addressed, remind staff and volunteers of their roles and responsibilities during a disaster. If library facilities have been evacuated, who will reach out to library administrators or staff at other branches? Who will be assigned to assist more vulnerable patrons, such as those who are elderly or have a disability? Who will help keep children calm? If time allows, check in with staff and volunteers to make sure they are comfortable in their role.
Await Additional Guidance
During a disaster, conditions often evolve quickly. If evacuation is warranted, do not return to library facilities until approval has been given by local officials. Coordinate internally to see if library programming and services can be continued at another branch or alternate location.
Tools & Resources
Sample disaster response plan (anonymized from NLS sources)
Ready.gov’s Emergency Response Plan resource page, featuring detailed guidance and links to assist with immediate disaster response