Thursday, June 12, 2008

Emergency Preparedness in Libraries and Archives

My little rumination on the Iowa flooding prompted another thought. I have no idea how this all fits in with Web 2.0 kinds of concerns at the moment (something I might think a bit more about), but I was reminded last week, during a meeting on emergency procedures, that we live in a different world. There was a new section in our procedures notebook that gave me pause -- "Gunman in the Building." In this "active shooter scenario" there are basically two options: escape if you can or lock and hide if you can't.

None of this was part of the curriculum in library school "back in the day." But its there now, at least in the preservation and conservation class I teach as adjunct at the St. Kate's MLIS program. Its part of the disaster planning section of the coursework. I didn't have the gunman scenario in the mix, but that will be added this fall. I don't know if its exactly the kind of conversation we'd like to have, but I would be interested in hearing about other experiences from those of you who have found yourself in emergency situations. I'm thinking especially about the recent shootings at Northern Illinois and Virginia Tech. What happened to you and your staff during these events?

Our procedures are good and we review them regularly. They're part of orientation for new staff members (including student employees). They include calling lists and detailed procedures for evacuations, fire, weather, water damage, medical situations, criminal behavior, bomb threats, incident reports, suspect descriptions, and building maps. The key is to get this stuff ingrained into your head so that you can almost act on instinct. And there's one key phrase that shows up on almost every page of our emergency manual, in caps and bold type: NEVER ENDANGER YOUR PERSONAL SAFETY.

Our disaster plan is due for review and updating. I'm sure that revisions to our emergency procedures will get folded into the update. What's the status of your disaster plan?

1 comment:

Lynne M Thomas said...

My department is on the 4th floor of the library, along with administration. I was in administration when the shooting happened. I didn't really blog much about the actual experience.

We heard people (now I know our security folks) running. We were then told that we were in lockdown via a phonecall to administration, a campus-wide broadcast voicemail, and then an email. I called my department's main phone to tell them to lock the department's doors and close the curtains, and to stay away from our windows (as they overlook Cole Hall). I also called my husband to let him konw that we were in lockdown, and that I was safe. At that point, the shooting had not yet hit the news.

Then those of us who happened to be in Admin went into the conference room, watching the news for more information.

About half an hour later, we were sent home via PA announcement. The first announcement was heeded by our patrons; they needed to make a second announcement to specify that library staff were to leave as well. We left the library under the watchful eye of state troopers with machine guns. We left in groups of our own making. People who normally walked were offered rides home by colleagues. We all worried about each other. Then I spent most of that afternoon and evening on the phone and online with anyone who had ever met me, checking in.

My experience of that initial half-hour was quite different than that of folks who work on the first floor of the library, who encountered students escaping the shooting (if you run west from Cole Hall, we are the first building). I can't speak for them.