Library staff may also be asked to support city or countywide emergency operations if they are considered “essential employees” or if a disaster is prolonged.
In Napa County, library staff members assisted with county-led disaster response efforts during recent power shutoffs, wildfires in 2017 and an earthquake in 2014. “One thing that helps is being really aware of your jurisdiction’s personnel policies around disasters,” said Danis Kreimeier, retired director of the Napa County Library.
“The bigger jurisdiction is going to pull rank and go first,” said Kreimeier. “They might decide that the library is an evacuation center or a place for people to find information.”
Depending on staffing needs, Napa County has sent employees to support the county’s emergency operations center (EOC), provided refuge for patrons needing to shelter indoors and offered library meeting space for use by local and state agencies.
When supporting broader disaster response efforts, libraries should:
Coordinate with city or county officials to clarify what is expected of library staff during a disaster
Promote volunteer opportunities, without pressuring anyone to participate; remember that staff and volunteers may also be affected by a disaster
Ensure that staff are assigned appropriately; roles and responsibilities should reflect staff members’ personal capacities and ability levels
Provide frequent check ins and mental health supports to those working during a disaster
Tools & Resources
Contact your city or county to inquire about local disaster trainings, including those offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA offers in-depth trainings on a rolling basis through the Emergency Management Institute.
A look at why library staff are particularly well suited to serve during disasters